Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When cliché becomes deadly-moving from policy to action

I was saddened last night to see (on TBC) how two young boys are forced to live in a makeshift house from which they may be kicked out of anytime their friend's father decides that having a tenant would be much more profitable than hosting two brothers who study with his son. Their mother died of HIV/AIDS and their father is dying of cancer in a hospital they can’t even afford to go to to visit him as much as they feel they should. The eldest of the two is only seventeen.

Having worked with young people for most of my ‘working life’, I’m going to draw on my youth development experience to express how I feel that we have allowed ‘development clichés’ to kill, rape, abandon, oppress and suffocate any hope or opportunities we keep saying belongs to the very people it kills. Being a young person myself, I believe that this is the ‘realest’ (most honest) any writing carrying this opinion can get.

It sounds more like a broken record when I hear that investment in HIV/AIDS is tripling in billions ($) but it’s killing more young people than ever before; expensive media outreach condemning violence against young women but no-one to can take responsibility or help when we are because it’s a ‘family issue’; that youth development is primal to societal prosperity when there are two boys who literally represent a majority-for whom everyday is a struggle to survive, much less live.

Too many times I have sat in “opinion gathering” youth meetings in an executive meeting room of a hotel in which I could not even afford to buy a soda that day and saw in the papers the next day that youth opinions have been collected and will be incorporated in one youth development project or the other. Is it I who has the meaning of youth involvement and participation all wrong or has the actual concept of youth empowerment been restricted to lavish meeting rooms, regional pacts and documents only to make them seem more sensitive and inclusive? What I do know is that development for us is not a gamble anymore. It has become a matter of life and death.

There are now numerous ABC or EFG NGOs supposedly there to help me not get AIDS, to make sure I get the ‘basic’ education I need to get and keep me off the streets, without forgetting the ever so busy Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare that had my mother sit for hours at end to get “development assistance”, after several failed attempts with our tediously slow judicial system, just to be told that it was a ‘family issue’ when my father just decided to up and leave her with four school-going children after 23years of marriage, knowing that all she’d ever known to do in her professional life was be a housewife.

This leads me to ask myself, do the people who come up with lines like, “they live on less than a dollar a day” and “youth are the leaders of today(no longer ‘of tomorrow’)” really understand what they are saying, or is it just a farce- something to pass off as another statement that shows they have helped a couple of hundred youth in the cliché “so poor, so illiterate, so dependent margin” with flimsy t-shirts and posters to go home with. Do they know that while they sit in their cool, state of the art, plush offices, real people on the ground are struggling and dying? When did we allow that to stop mattering? Did it ever?

1 comment:

Lina said...

Nancy, the same thoughts usually go through my head, and yes, it is a very sad situation (perhaps more than very sad). My question is, what are we doing to change this situation? Creating awareness of the situation (as you have done) is one, but what else can we do?