Sierra Leone National Youth Policy
By: Ministry of Youth Affairs
Since the civil war ended in Sierra Leone in 2002, the country has implemented two national youth policies with the aim of enhancing the capacity and potential of the youth and addressing the challenges that they contend with. However, despite some modest gains made, it has become obvious that there are existing and emerging challenges that undermine the ability of young people to effectively contribute to national development. Thus, the 2020 National Youth Policy was developed with the aim of addressing these and has as its theme “empowered youth leading the national development of a new Sierra Leone”.
Sierra Leone is blessed with a youthful population, with 7 in 10 citizens being below the age of 35. As such, if they are empowered and provided with the socio-economic and political space, they will lead the process of transforming Sierra Leone into a middle income and more prosperous country.
The 2020 National Youth Policy is a progressive, pragmatic, rights based and gender responsive policy that outlines government’s commitments, principles and concrete actions to empower youth, with special emphasis on female youth, youth with disabilities and other marginalised groups, to be key players in their own wellbeing and the socio-economic and political development of their communities and the country as a whole.
This policy was literally written by the youth of Sierra Leone as over 20, 000 youth across the country directly participated in the in-person and digital consultations informing the development process of the strategy. The perspectives and critical reflections of the youth on their experiences, challenges and suggestions for change are summarised in this document.
The policy maintains the African Charter’s definition of youth as a person between the ages of 15-35 but calls for interventions and opportunities in the sector to pay special consideration for those below the age of 29.
The provisions in the policy are guided by 3 critical guiding principles: access, inclusivity and impact. All interventions in the sector must not just reach youth, (access) but must reach an equitable number of the different categories of youth with a special focus on more traditionally excluded cohorts (inclusivity) and must be measured only by their tangible effect on the lives of youth as determined by youth themselves and other credible independent assessments (impact).
The priority provisions for the next five years (2020-2025) are categorised under the following:
1. Increase Access to Livelihood Opportunities through Education and Training Opportunities, Scale up Interest in Sporting Activities and Entrepreneurship with Emphasis in Agriculture and Fisheries. A set of provision focused on human capital development of the youth including building skills, harnessing talents and cultivating creativity to enhance livelihoods. Particular attention is paid to two of the most economically productive sectors; agriculture and fisheries as priority for youth development over the period of the policy. It also emphasises Innovation, Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), the creative sectors for including music, film, Art, theatre, sports and general entertainment.
2. Review the Legal Framework and Address Continued Marginalisation and Infantilisation of Youth, Multiple Gendered Violence and Discrimination Against Female Youth, Harmful Migration, Substance Abuse and Other Youth Related Violence – This set of provisions are centered on the wellbeing and safety of the different categories of youth with a special focus on female youth, youth with disabilities and other marginalised groups. The provisions focus on the safety of youth and non-violence, healthy lifestyle, including sexual and reproductive rights, and youth contribution to sustainable physical environment and ecosystem, including sanitation, forest protection and biodiversity.
3. Increase Youth Participation in Policy Discussions and Development with Intent to Build Trust and Confidence in the Socio-Economic and Political System and Restore Family and Community Values and Norms – Youth aspire to be full and active citizens, participating in the social political and economic life of Sierra Leone. These set of provisions remove barriers, provides incentives, and takes concrete actions that facilitate youth leadership and active participation in the nation’s political and socio-economic trajectory. It also provides for cultivating and strengthening patriotism and fostering mutually productive partnerships between the youth, government, civil society, communities and other stakeholders.
Critically, to assure sustained funding of the youth sector, the policy provides for the creation of a basket Youth Empowerment Fund which, will be a vehicle for innovative mobilisation and coordination of investments to implement the youth policy. Additionally, the policy calls for the government to develop a robust implementation plan with a clear monitoring and evaluation framework.