AFRICAN Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) policy officer Alex Nkosi says the participation of young people in trade unions and politics has been hijacked and relegated to symbolism.
During the sub regional workshop on youth organising and unionisation, Nkosi said there was need to reflect on what happened to the youth to lose their vitality and their participation in matters of trade unions and politics.
He said historically, the African youth had been at the centre of political struggle for independence.
Nkosi said the African youth established trade unions to fight for the rights of workers who were grossly abused by the colonisers.
“The trade union movement was started by young people – Clements Kadalie was 23-years-old when he began to organise workers. Most of our leaders, the founding leaders that led the fight for independence were young people – Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere was 39 when he became the prime minister of Tanzania,” he said.
He said even at independence, the composition of cabinet had young people but for some reason their participation had been hijacked and relegated to symbolism.
Nkosi said the youths had not been given anything substantial.
He said the future of the youth was now and that they should not listen to sentiments that they were the future leaders.
“The future is now, not tomorrow,” he said.
Nkosi said people were now living in a fast moving world, which was technology advanced and the youth were the ones who could get on top of things.
He urged the youth to claim their rightful position in society.
Nkosi called on governments to involve youths in governing of the countries, especially women who were the majority.
“We can’t keep having governments that are male dominated and exclude women. They are the majority and we need that woman voice in the governing structures,” said Nkosi.
ITUC Africa regional organising coordinator Joseph Toe said unions give workers real power in their workplace.
Toe said organising a union means that workers were standing together and acting collectively to make changes in their workplace.
He said with the global workforce standing at 2.9 billion, the formal workforce was 1.7 billion while the unionised workforce was 200 million.
Toe said women were 40 per cent of the global paid workforce yet less than 15 per cent of union leaders.
He said 50 per cent of workers were in vulnerable or irregular employment and most of them were women.
Toe said unemployment amongst women was higher than men while there were less than 70 women who were economically active for every 100 men.
He said youth unemployment was around 12 per cent globally, twice the level for older workers and 40 per cent of the global economy was informal.
The Zambia Trade Union Congress (ZCTU) hosted the regional youth academy organising workshop comprising national trade union centres from 14 countries in Southern Africa.