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Current emergence of the youth development dates back to 1994 after the political change in Malawi. Prior to 1994 youth development was synonymous with party Malawi Young Pioneer and League of Malawian Youth. In 1994 young people themselves started forming groups to determine their own destiny. The government started mobilizing the youth in early 1995 leading to the establishment of the National Youth Policy in 1996.

Currently, While there are numerous players in the field of youth development in the country, but the three main stakeholders  are as follows: the Department of Youth in the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports (MoYDS): the National Youth Council of Malawi (NYCOM); and Youth Organizations and Groups.

The Department of Youth Development focuses on socio-economic empowerment of young people and promotion of their participation in personal and national development. The Department of Youth is a policy holder and ensures that the Youth Policy is being implemented. It has District Structures which make it easy for coordination, and it has developed numerous strategies that focus on the empowerment of youth (i.e. NYDS, NPA, YOMIS).

The National Youth Council of Malawi (NYCOM) is a statutory institution in youth development established under the National Youth Council Act of 1996. The main function of the NYCOM is to contribute towards youth empowerment and development through the promotion, coordination and implementation of youth development programs. NYCOM remains very much relevant for youth development as it is a legal body for registering youth organization. Besides coordination, the establishment of the NYCOM has resulted in increased platform for youth participation, profiling and empowerment, as the the youth organization are spread out through out the country.

Youth Organizations and Groups

The advent of democratic dispensation in Malawi in 1993 saw mushrooming of NGOs and youth organisations. Youth organisations are registered by the NYCOM and 131 youth organisations have been registered so far. These organisations offer young people space to tackle issues that concern them and plan and implement their own activities. They are found every corner of Malawi and reach even the very remotest areas often shunned by NGOs. The youth groups have also proved to be an effective training ground for youth leadership in Malawi.

Despite the high number of youth organisations in the country, only a few are functional and efficient and several others are non-functional or less functional. The resource base of most youth organisations is very decimal. Many funding agencies do not fund youth organizations. While youth groups in the communities are often dynamic, cost-effective and sustainable in the long term, they are not given necessary opportunities to prove their case.

How Has the Youth Sector Contributed to Malawi Development?

The youth sector, mainly the youth organizations/groups, have made a tremendous contribution to Malawi and these include;

bullet Contribution towards youth employment
bullet Promotion of education through establishment of rural libraries and learning centers
bullet HIV and AIDS and promotion of Sexual Reproductive Health services
bullet Provision of recreation activities
bullet Promotion of use of appropriate technology
bullet Economic empowerment programme
bullet Increasing youth employment through self and employing others
bullet Contribution to food security
bullet Contribution to rural development through construction of youth centre
bullet Promotion of vocational skills
bullet Governance and political participation

Factors Restraining Youth Development in Malawi

1. Adult-Youth Relationship (Youth Stereotyping versus Adult stereotyping)

bullet The adult-youth relationship in Malawi is generally marked by distance and deference.
bullet Young people remain at the margins of decision making; at lower levels of Participation i.e. manipulation, decoration, tokenized, assigned or informed 
bullet This trend spills over to the village, church, government departments, and to social, economic and political institutions. Decisions are made by elders and young people must be ready to take them.

2. Prejudice towards Young People

bullet Related to stereotype is prejudice i.e. fallacious extension of a positive or negative past experience to the general case which is often harmful
bullet Instead of viewing young people as assets they perceive them as problems in society and likely to cause problems 

3. Inadequate Government Commitment Towards Youth Development

bullet In the past few decades government has been more rhetorical than pragmatic on youth development in the country
bullet Apart from setting up the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, the National Youth Council, the youth sector has remained an underdeveloped and undermined sector 

4. Limited Favorable Conditions for Youth Participation and Empowerment

bullet The environment in Malawi is not conducive enough to guarantee youth participation and empowerment. Several factors can be considered like the modicum national economic and social base, lack of political will translated into action, weak supportive legal and administrative frameworks, limited access to knowledge, information and skills, and lack of positive value system. As a result youth participation and empowerment structures remain limited, non-functional, underdeveloped or underfunded

5. Lack of Proper Coordination of Youth Work and Youth Development Activities

bullet There is limited understanding that MoYDS must provide overall policy direction while NYCOM to coordination of youth work and youth development activities 
bullet The two institutions are among the least funded in terms of subvention thereby at times rendering them ineffective 

6. Poor Funding to Youth Sector for Youth Development Programmes

bullet Funding trends to the youth sector in Malawi has been significantly modicum in the recent years. Below is an example of the funding summary to MoYDS
bullet This puts to question the kind of national youth development programmes the Ministry can implement with the small budget 
bullet International donor support to the youth sector remains significantly low 

7. Inadequate Trained Personnel in Youth Work

bullet The country lags behind in training people in youth work. While some people claim youth work is mainstreamed in other disciplines, it must be realized that when that is done, youth work is downgraded. Youth work is a special discipline that deserves special attention and respect
bullet Limited training opportunities for youth organization leaders as most are only focusing on Life skills and HIV and AIDS 

8. Invisibility of the Youth Sector

bullet Although young people are an immense bulge in the population, they are yet to be visible.
bullet Young people are still a sleeping giant in Malawi and adults continue to take advantage of the situation. The invisibility of the youth sector is demonstrated in the national development planning processes like the MGDS 

The Future for Youth Development in Malawi

Young people present the requisite human resource capital, mainstay and springboard of any meaningful sustained economic growth endeavor. In order to secure a healthy and productive future, there is need for Government and other key stakeholders to seriously consider the following issues and recommendations and issues:

1. Investing on the youth
bullet Responsive training to youth – Leadership, life skills, project management, strategic management, etc

2. Youth Recognition
bullet Recognizing that youth are central in achieving sustained economic growth and development
bullet Recognizing that the youth have contributed to the country development
bullet Appointment of youth into embassies, various boards

3. Government need to move from making commitments and act on the commitment

4. A vibrant National Youth Council - the prerequisite for strong youth development.
bullet Increased subvention which can start supporting capacity development of youth organization and affiliates – Case study Botswana Youth Council
bullet The Development of the Achinyamata Youth Centre for training, learning and youth leadership development
bullet Strengthened youth representation in the NYCOM Board i.e. better representation from the youth and elected through a consensus building processes


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