“You are the future leaders of tomorrow” has to be one of the most common statements addressed to the younger generation. We are told about how we must carry on the torch and push for the growth and development of our countries. Although this is all true, how much are we given a chance to practice our leadership skills, or let alone hold conversations with the older generation to understand the vision. I have had experience with people who have shut down my questions or comments with statements such as, “what do you know?’, or “you are too young to understand”. It is statements like these that negate the whole concept of being the future leaders of tomorrow.
Speaking from a Rwandan perspective, I do believe that there are many people who hide behind culture, better known as “umuco”. Hiding behind this concept has overall changed what “umuco” in itself is, it is time people stop trying to hide behind this and allow young people to have a voice.
“Uracyari muto, uzabimenya nukura” (loosely translated as ‘you’re still young, you will understand when you are older’) is one of the common statements regarding young people speaking up. If we wait to seek understanding, then we cannot pave the way in the future. The change must come NOW. When one is given the opportunity to speak up, it also gives room for growth. When we speak up about different issues or challenge certain norms, we are given a chance to learn and essentially grow in our thinking. We cannot continue to shut down the brilliant ideas of the younger generation.
For all those older than us, do not rely on all these youth conventions and conferences to do all the work. The same way a student attends class and is taught, they must apply it individually, and where there is help needed, they seek one-on-one help. Give us a seat at the table. Give us a chance to engage with you and understand the vision you have for the future of our nations. You have planted a seed by encouraging us to see that we are the future, but nurture that seed by engaging with us. We are young, hungry and eager to learn, so engage with us!
For all my peers, stand up for yourselves. Yes, there are many youngsters out here who are putting their foot down and speaking up, but it takes each and every one of us. Your efforts do not have to be massive but take baby steps each day. With every step we take, we find our voices. I encourage you all to challenge yourselves to find your voice, it is through that, that we will be able to break the confinements we have been put in. We are all in this together, because this is our future. Let us all get down with the cause.
The writer is a student at Roanoke College