Zimbabwe Fails Its Young People

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha| AfroFutures.com Global Editor-At-Large| Harare

ZIMBABWE’s acrimonious political system marked by a bitter rivalry between ZANU PF and MDC political parties combined with a decade-long economic collapse has sidelined the social and economic rights of young people, according to a recently published study.

The new study, which surveyed 1500 urban-based youths  in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Chitungwiza, revealed that most young people, that is, 76 percent of the respondents had a basic understanding of their socio-economic rights. Most of the young people felt that promoting such rights through human rights education is required.

In addition, 58 percent of the youth respondents said the government has the primary responsibility for providing socio-economic rights

The study, which was conducted by Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe (YIDEZ), aimed to investigate young people’s views on social and economic rights, focusing on awareness, availability and accessibility of such rights.

Many youths in Zimbabwe – approximately 65 percent of the total population – are currently trapped in poverty and unemployment, with their voices largely curtailed in nation building endeavours such as the constitution making process. The study, titled, “Socio-Economic Rights: Youths Know Your Rights,” revealed that the current constitution does not have a provision for economic and social rights of young people. This is despite the fact that over the years the government has ratified various international human rights instruments which it has failed to incorporate into domestic law. According to Sydney Chisi, director of YIDEZ, the ongoing constitution making process had been a missed opportunity to address the issue of young people’s economic and social rights.

“The motivation of the study was the context of socio-economic rights within the framework on the ongoing discussion on the constitution. One of the missing links is that the discussion has been largely political and there has been very little focus on issues of socio-economic rights. If you look at the political discourse in post independent Zimbabwe, you’ll see that we have been moving away from issues of social and economic rights,” said Sydney Chisi, director of  YIDEZ.

To reduce unemployment rates and increase access to jobs, most of the young people surveyed said that Zimbabwe needs major legislative and policy reforms and external assistance for economic development. Sixty-two percent felt that an effective land audit should be conducted by the government to repossess all unproductive land and redistribute it to productive farmers.

The survey found that 32 percent of young people felt that title deeds should be issued to farmers to ensure security of tenure and boost confidence in the farming sector, while 6 percent felt that government must mobilize and distribute farm inputs before the beginning of each season.

“It is all about bread and butter issues. It about access to health, education and responsible local governance. It is difficult to talk about politics and democracy without taking it consideration fundamental human rights. The absence of access to fundamental social and economic rights will exacerbate the abuse of young people. Politicians have a way to come and promise services to young people. So we want young people to know about their basic social and economic rights  as a way for them to demand accountability from their local and national governance structures without necessarily being partisan,” said Chisi.

In the study,  72 percent of the respondents, said that despite slight improvement in the provision of health care following the formation of the inclusive government, young people were still facing a plethora of challenges to access affordable and quality healthcare. In addition, the respondents felt that decrease in public financing of the education sector, exorbitant fees and shortage of teachers is hindering young people from accessing quality education.

According to the study, the sidelining of social and economic rights can be a powder keg that if left unaddressed can hinder the country’s development.

“Zimbabwe has become a nation that is marked by oppressive political arrangements that favour particular segments of society and marginalize the basic survival rights of the average masses. It is saddening to note that social and economic rights have taken second or no place at all in the country priorities,” says the study.

Food, Food, Food: Making Sense of A Global Crisis

Nothing could be as much a mirror of poor people’s food plight as Thai farmers reportedly conducting armed vigils in their rice fields at night to prevent thieves from reaping the crop.


As a measure against nocturnal rice thefts, Thai authorities introduced a 6 p.m. curfew on combine harvesters, vehicles used to harvest the crop.


In Thailand, as in many parts of Asia, the price of rice has gone up dramatically in recent months tempting greedy and corrupt dealers to use any means available to get a hold of the pricey grain for either sell or hoarding. In fact, the hoarding of rice has been blamed for the price spirals forcing governments to impose buying rations.


According to the Asia Development Bank (ADB), approximately 1 billion Asians need assistance to cope with soaring food prices and shortages.


The purchasing power of many of Asia’s poor has been seriously eroded reversing previous gains made in fighting poverty.


The International Herald Tribune describes rice, a staple food for half of the global population, as one of the “world’s most politically fragile crop.”


Like the price of rice, general food prices are on the rise in many parts of the world, forcing poor people to protest — sometimes violently — against governments.


Food riots have erupted in countries such as Haiti, Cameroon, Egypt, Indonesia, Senegal and Somalia, among others, threatening national stability or exacerbating conflict. Poor people, particularly children and those living with diseases, face the risk of malnutrition or death due to inadequate diets.


“It’s the worst crisis of its kind in more than 30 years,” Jeffrey Sachs, and economist and UN special adviser recently told The New York Times. “It’s a big deal and it’s obviously threatening a lot of governments. There are a number of governments on the ropes, and I think there’s more political fallout to come.”


Experts say that food reserves are at their lowest in 35 years, and there is a systemic imbalance between the forces of supply and demand that cannot be fixed in the short term. UN statistics show that global food prices have risen by 65 percent since 2002 to levels increasingly beyond the reach of the poor.


The current food quagmire has been festering over the years with little to no media attention.


“In the seven of the last eight years consumption has exceeded production, which can happen only if we draw down our stocks. The carryover, the grain in the bin when a new harvest begins, is the seminal indicator of food security, and it’s now down to 54 days consumption, not much than is needed to fill the supply line,” says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute.


Nearly 1.7 billion people in Asia — three times the population of Europe — live on less than US$2 a day, and to them the spiraling food prices are like a shockwave.


“The world’s food import bill will rise in 2007 to $745 billion, up 21% from last year, the FAO estimated in its biannual Food Outlook. In developing countries, costs will go up by a quarter to nearly $233 billion,” reports Time Magazine.


Asia’s poor are particularly vulnerable to rising food prices for staples such as rice because 60 percent of their spending goes toward food and the figure rises to 75 percent if transport costs are included, according to the ADB.


Many countries in the region have resorted to banning food exports and imposing price controls; however, the ADB warns that this could worsen the crisis, as farmers will stop growing crops that bring a negative return on investment.


An assortment of causes have been cited for the ongoing food crisis from climate change, population growth, increased consumption of meat in Asia, particularly India and China, a ballooning oil price, focus on bio-fuels to greed and corruption.


According to experts, the transportation of specific commodities over long distances chews up a lot of oil, which in a context of a skyrocketing oil price is responsible for the food price hikes.


Also, the fact that many people in Asia and other parts of the world now eat like North Americans is also an underlying factor for the upward spiral of food prices. The more people eat meat, the less food will be available to satiate empty bellies of the poor because grains meant for human beings go to fattening chickens and animals for meat. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor, says the World Watch Institute.


In addition, the increased commercialization of agriculture has negatively impacted the productivity of small farmers. Consequently, small farmers opt to abandon the land, and trek to urban areas in search of proverbial greener pastures.


According to a United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) report between 2000 and 2030, Asia’s urban population is expected to increase from 1.36 billion to 2.64 billion, putting pressure on urban areas which are already incapable of meeting everyone’s food needs.


As the Asian food story reveals, to avert a global food crisis requires a multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional approach that employs short term and long-term measures.


In the short term, bilateral and multi-lateral agencies can lend monetary support and food aid to help seriously affected countries cope with the food crisis. While government subsidies can help the poor to withstand the food crisis, it is not a sustainable strategy in the long-term.


National governments will need to invest in agricultural systems in a manner that keeps small farmers engaged in the production of food with a guarantee of support, fair compensation and improved access to market information.


The ADB recommends that farmers need to have access to reliable and affordable seed, fertilizers, pesticides and credit.


In the long-term, agricultural research, improvement of irrigation systems and the development of new technologies, including improved seed and crop varieties suited to specific climatic conditions, are essential to improving yields.


The use of low cost technologies such as drip kits and treadle pumps can also help farmers to make optimum use of land and water in the face of global warming. Labor-saving technologies that will adapt agriculture to new conditions generated by rural-to-urban migration can help to compensate for the depletion of labor.


As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon succinctly put it, the longer-term challenge is to boost agricultural development, particularly in Africa and other regions most affected.


With increased political will, fair trade and investments into agricultural systems, hopefully rice farmers in Thailand will, once again, have nights filled with sleep unafraid of waking up to a bare rice field harvested by some unscrupulous characters bent on making a quick dollar.


Quote of the Day

“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.”

~ Wayne Dyer, Teacher

How to Shine Up the Career Ladder

In a corporate world that is increasingly over-crowded, highly competitive and ever-changing, getting a promotion can indeed be a hassle.  But, through deliberate, well planned steps, and a willingness to take initiative, you can put yourself at the front of the line for a promotion.  


First things first: If you keep yourself sheltered away from the attention of your bosses, you will always miss the opportunity to climb up the corporate ladder.  A promotion typically means having more responsibility.


So you have to position yourself as a person that has the aptitude, value and capability to meet the requirements of a potential promotion.  


Develop career goals. You must be absolutely sure about where you want to go. Start maintaining a career journal where you write down your career goals. It’s important to make sure that the promotion is in alignment with both your credentials and personal goals. Develop long-term, medium-term and short-term goals that will keep you grounded towards a career upgrade. If you find it difficult to envision, consult a career coach to help you develop a clear perspective of what you want to do. A coach will help to expand your vision and push you to function at your peak.   


Do your current job well and more. If you want to make it to the top of the corporate ladder, do your current job well. Demonstrate honesty, empathy, trustworthiness and an ability to be a team player. See every challenge and responsibility as an opportunity to shine, and to sell yourself to your organization. Always review what you are currently doing and identify gaps that can allow you to do more. The surest way to get promoted is to do more and better than is expected of you. Show the value in yourself and create a demand for your abilities.   


Make a contribution. Start right away to contribute ideas and suggestions to improve processes, practices and profits of your company. To grant you a promotion, your company has to be satisfied with your value. Get all the facts about your ideas. Having more information will increase chances of your ideas and suggestions being accepted, and put you in favor to get promoted.


Keep a portfolio of your work. You must maintain a portfolio of work contributions that are directly connected to the position that you seek. Never make an assumption that your bosses know what you’re doing. Without being big-headed about it, let your organization know of your accomplishments. Gain visibility with your current job successes.  


Review job descriptions. Be clear about the additional responsibilities involved in the promotion as well as the salary level. In your career journal, keep job advertisements that underline the major duties or responsibilities of the job you want to promote in. Make a note of the qualities, attitudes and outputs required for that upward career opportunity. After you have identified these attributes, the next step is to put them into practice to prepare yourself for a promotion.  


Update your resume. Take time to review your current skills and accomplishments, including what you’ve learned in your current position. Update your resume so that it reveals your talents and hidden skills. Make sure your resume is specific to the potential career upgrade. Remember: Highlight unique qualifications and background. A well-written resume can significantly improve your chances to landing a promotion.  


Develop your skills. Identify areas that need improvement: don’t just focus on your strengths. In your career journal, make a note of areas of weakness and strive to improve in those areas that are critical to your promotion. In an ever-changing business environment, you must constantly update your skills to enhance your chances to get promoted.  Consult and learn from experts in your field. Find out what they did to succeed, what they would do different, and steps that you can take to improve your chances of a promotion.  


Take Courses in Your Field. Many companies require a potential candidate for promotion to have an advanced degree. Like it or not, having an advanced degree exponentially increases your chances to move to the front of the promotion line. Target unique qualifications. Read books, join a professional association, attend seminars and do courses that will build your knowledge, skills and abilities.  


Market yourself. Make full use of every opportunity to sell yourself. If you’ve got it, flaunt it and don’t wait quietly for someone to acknowledge you. Make sure that you demonstrate your ability to hold a higher position with flair and confidence. Also, show how your past achievements have contributed to the growth of the organization. When it comes down to the selection process, make sure to put your best foot forward, just like you did when you were first hired.    


Get networking right. If you want to fly like an eagle, then you have to stop taking lessons from chickens. Avoid co-workers and people that will pull you down through negative talk, and fill you with frustration over your desire to get a promotion. Associating with winners will fill you with a positive outlook on life and your career opportunities. Surround yourself with people that are success-oriented, and will encourage you to take the big leap forward towards a promotion.   


Make yourself outstanding. There’s no doubt that polish and presence are critical ingredients for a promotion. Be open to new inputs and ideas. Become an expert in your field. Write articles or a book. Develop a dress sense that shows you are headed for the top.  


Positioning yourself for a promotion at its most fundamental is an inside job. It’s a matter of finding what you want, and expressing that essence and character in everything you do.  


With hard work and an effective strategy, you can raise your stakes to get a promotion. 


So don’t let anything stop you.