But although it is low, youth engagement and civic participation is increasing and is higher than in other African countries
While young people have a fundamental right to participate and engage meaningfully in society, the recently released Generation Unlimited Landscape Analysis report shows that women, youth and people with disabilities are poorly represented in government in Botswana.
During the 2019 general elections, only 11 out of 210 parliamentary candidates were women and only 10 Members of Parliament who are 45 years of age or younger, with the youngest member being 32 years of age.
Research has also shown that meaningful youth participation results in more relevant and effective programmes and policies, enhanced protection and non-discrimination, and promotes accountability and good governance. “Despite being low, youth engagement and civic participation is increasing and higher than other African countries,” the report also found.
“Botswana ranked 77th (out of 181 countries) and scored 0.308 (out of 1) for political and civic participation on the Youth Development Index (YDI) in 2020. While most Batswana say they vote in elections (67%) and attend community meetings (71%), the proportion of citizens who express interest in public affairs and discuss politics is in decline, and only a minority contact public officials or get together with other citizens to raise an issue.”
The Landscape Analysis indicated that constraints to youth engagement in Botswana include lack of skills and opportunities for engagement, negative socio-cultural attitudes and norms and barriers to youth volunteerism. Low rates of meaningful youth participation are caused, in part, by negative social and cultural attitudes. Negative socio-cultural norms and prevailing cultural values often impede adolescents and youth participation in both private and public settings.
Stated the report: “In Botswana, many adolescent girls and young women, in particular, are discouraged from questioning adults or exercising free thought. Norms that reinforce patriarchy and discrimination based on gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation or family income can further marginalise adolescents and exclude them from relevant decisions.
“While there is a strong culture for volunteerism in the country, financial constraints present additional barriers for youth volunteering and young people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds often cannot afford the costs associated with undertaking volunteering opportunities.”
Even so, Botswana has been lauded for having a strong policy framework for youth engagement. The Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Culture is the main institutional actor that ensures the participation of youth in economic development and social development. While the National Youth Policy is well-crafted and generally accepted by youth as a good policy, there are a few challenges that hinder its effectiveness. The main challenge is the heterogeneity and multiplicity of actors engaged with youth at different levels, and the lack of coordination between these actors.
“It is within this context that GenU aims to equip young people as problem solvers and engaged members of society, helping to create a better world,” Jakoet said. “This includes ensuring that the policies, programmes, and practices of government, the private sector, and civil society include young people, respond to young people’s concerns and ideas, and encourage them to participate in civic change.”