In Uganda, The International Youth Day 2023 wasmarked by the national theme: “Accelerating Recovery from COVID-19 and full implementation of the 2030 agenda; the role of youth”, where the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the United Nations (UN) agencies and partners have come together to celebrate youth contributions to national development and to highlight issues related to youth and their wellbeing, their ambitions and aspirations that remain unmet.
Uganda’s significant youth population, comprising 76% under 30 years old, holds immense potential for development. Proper investments in education, health, and protection can harness this potential, while neglect can leave them vulnerable, impacting their well-being. Uganda's adolescents and youth already face Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) challenges, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic that led to disrupted education, interruptions in access to SRHR services and information, increased poverty, food insecurity, exposure to violence, abuse and exploitation.
It is crucial to capitalize on the potential of young Ugandans and to involve them in national and subnational planning and policy development from a demographic dividend, human rights and results based perspectives for the nation's COVID-19 recovery. Their unique experiences, views and ideas can contribute to the national and international development goals.
Spanning from 6 August, the Youth Week has been a vibrant celebration in Uganda in observance of the International Youth Day. Notably, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the National Youth Council and 13 UN agencies (FAO, ILO, IOM, UNAIDS, UNCDF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNODC, UN Women and WHO) collabored to launch an ambitious programme. The UN Adolescent and Youth Joint Programme was offifcially launched by the Ugandan President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, on 18 August.
The Programme, broadly aligned to the Global UN Youth Strategy and the national frameworks and policies, aims to address the barriers hindering youth potential. The focus areas are: sexual and reproductive health, inclusive quality education, skills and employment opportunities, climate action, and peace and security. With an approximate value of 22 million USD, the Programme covers 8 districts across 4 regions of Uganda for the 2023-2025 period, which is the first phase with roll-out to other districts.
In her remarks at the commemoration of the International Youth Day, Dr. Mary Otieno, UNFPA Uganda Country Representative, while speaking on behalf of the UN System in Uganda, called for both vision and action for the youth, noting, “Youth are the resource and backbone on which the country must rely on to advance sustainable development and to generate innovative solutions that will help the country achieve its development goals and reap the demographic dividend.”
“Together, we can ensure that the 2030 agenda and Uganda’s vision 2040 promote the human rights, health and well-being of the largest generation of young people in history,” Dr. Mary Otieno concluded.