When I finished my degree in economics and development in 2016, I had no planned direction beyond finishing my studies and being a banker. I hadn’t considered how I could be supporting my community.

The big catalyst to my civic journey was when I took part in a workshop at Youth Prosperity, a two-day event equipping young people with skills in leadership, self-recognition and networking. That experience opened my mind to my potential.

The workshop was run by three organisations, including Pamoja Youth Initiative, an organisation dedicated to strengthening youth involvement and participation in society. I now work for this organisation. I was invited to join as a volunteer, and after three months, I became an outreach officer. It was a lot of work in a small office, but I benefitted from personal development opportunities, such as a year training on leadership within the Young Leaders Forum at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Tanzania, and travel to the UK to develop my communication skills.

I am now an Executive Director at Pamoja Youth Initiative. At first, I was reluctant to put myself forward as I felt I was too new and had little experience – but my community saw my potential and encouraged me to stand at the elections. I have since overseen my organisation’s budget and sustainability policies, secured an office, and managed our programmes – including a collaborative exchange programme with the Danish Zanzibar Adventure School, that links Scandinavian and Zanzibarian young people to discuss and exchange information on various youth related issues. I also worked with the International Institute for Environment Development  (IIED) on their Strengthening Women and Youth Voices on Climate Action in Tanzania project, and extended the Pamoja Youth Initiative’s reach into various areas of Zanzibar.

I am now a recognised youth activist in Zanzibar. I mentor young people to help them find a better life, working to develop their CVs and interview skills, and providing life journey support. I have found great pride in delivering change with young people and organisations in my community.

There are two key issues I see affecting young people today. Firstly, there is a mindset where young people do not believe in what they are doing and feel the only way to get a job is with the government. This lack of understanding leaves many waiting years after graduating for the right formal opportunity to arise. It is therefore common for young people to be unemployed.

Secondly, there are policy issues. Where policies are not built with young people in mind, it makes it harder for us to prosper, or to start our own businesses. This includes things like processes, licenses, permits – and tax that can be higher than loans, or more than young people feel they can afford.

I believe the solution is in youth participation and involvement. Despite representing the majority of the population, where are our voices? When decisions are made for young people without their participation, they are not truly for them. There should be clear policies and structures focused on employment, at different levels, for young people. There should also be more support for start-ups, as the system currently seems to benefit the more privileged.

I’d like to see young people recognised in leadership roles from grassroot to national level, and notably in the business environment. They should be able to own their business venture, be proud, employ others, and help create an ecosystem that provides opportunities for others. If systems and structures change, and we are involved in our own civic journeys, I see a bright future for young people.

Rashid Mwinyi is an Executive Director of Pamoja Youth Initiative in Zanzibar 


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