Post-COVID 19 youth leadership and the decade of action.

By Ogweno Stephen (Kenya), Arnold Leon Muggaga (Uganda) and Margaret Osolo Odhiambo. (Kenya)

The world is changing, the field is changing, the facts are changing and the ground is shifting. As long as we live, the one thing we can be sure of is that nothing is set on stone and no situation is permanent. In 2020, this fact has presented itself strongly with the unprecedented effects of COVID 19 in all areas of our lives.

In Jim Rohn’s 1988 lecture, he says that life is generally made of four seasons, and change is a constant. He gives an insightful analogy on these seasons; winter, winter is the hard, cold, seemingly unprogressive time in our life’s history. 2020 for instance has been the global winter year for all of us. He says that we can not wish winter away, rather we should find ways to go through, survive, or even thrive through this season.

After winters like COVID 19 pandemic, and as history has shown us, the lights will slowly glow and the sun will shine to give its warmth and this ushers us to a new season; spring. Spring is the season of preparation and opportunity. During springtimes, we do our best to get ourselves ready for the next season, the season of summer. Summer is the season of prosperity, abundance, and great achievements. During summer two things are critical, definitely celebrate the summer, but don’t celebrate too long because if you do and autumn catches up with you and before you know it, winter is here again and you are not prepared.

COVID 19 indeed disrupted the world, it is our winter season and it definitely is our rainy season. However, as leaders, we carry our own weather and always choose to see the silver lining the dark clouds. When it seems like it has all gone to the drain, right in the middle of life’s challenges and troubles, that’s where we find hope, we find creativity and we find innovation.

As Arnold Mugagga narrates in the next paragraph, he discovered this rare gem available to all of us in adversity and he hopes to convince you to find it too.

“Today, I saw a social media status that read ‘yesterday I was clever and I set out to change the world. Today I am wise, and I seek to change myself’. I laughed out loud knowing this speaks to me directly. In 2016, I set out to solve a classroom furniture problem and by the end of 2019, we were ready to deliver school bags that turn to chairs with writing surfaces as a proven solution (SeatPacks). To make this happen, we needed China’s aluminium, but as a result of the pandemic, we lost our aluminium-based inventory fast. It is in this situation that we realized we overlooked the resources our neighbourhood/community offered all this while. We have since designed and tested with bamboo to replace the aluminium components locally.”

Arnold says this experience has shown him that as we work towards a better future for all, sometimes we easily get lost in the view across the horizon and forget gradually to look around us. However, when we look into our communities closely, it is then that we discover we always have what we need surrounding us. It is his hope that this article challenges you the way his experiences earlier this year challenged him. What is closest around us that can help us make real change happen today? This inner inquiry as a habit means continuous improvement (subjective and objective), and as a leader grows/acts, so do his and her people grow/act.

Young people are the greatest asset of African transformation and this is something that has become increasingly evident during the pandemic. The future of the continent is dependent on youth leadership and resilience, youth who have a critical role in social change, rebuilding and transforming the economy in the post-COVID era. COVID 19 has had unprecedented health, education, food security and socio-economic impact on young people, posing a threat to livelihoods, development, and stability. This health and governance crisis has adversely affected the young people’s mental health causing depression and anxiety. The rate of gender-based violence towards girls and women has surged tremendously.

Delegates at the 2019 One Young World Summit in London, United Kingdom.

In the post-COVID era, youth should mobilize and strategically position themselves centrally for collective action and collaboration in service delivery; promote life-saving initiatives and crucial innovations for improving health and development; as well as support communities whose livelihoods and sense of order have been disrupted, to live in dignity while perpetrating hope amongst the most vulnerable during this pandemic and ‘infodemic’. We cannot be safe if all of us are not safe and the youth should partner with governments and other stakeholders to facilitate coordinated, organized, and impactful youth engagement for the communities.

Post-COVID 19 era demands that the youth pick up the pace, that we come out strongly and boldly, ready for impact and transformation. If anything, this is our time and the world has been waiting for us. Post-COVID 19, we need to go out to the world and be the advocates, the entrepreneurs, the leaders, the change-makers and the One Young World Ambassadors who will help us all achieve the sustainable development goals and create an impact in our communities, countries and continents. We are the future, and time is not on our side, so we need to move with speed, precision, innovation, creativity, courage and compassion to ensure we achieve the targets in this decade of action.

Writers; Ogweno Stephen, founder and CEO of Stowelink Inc, Optimist and Visionary; Arnold Mugagga, Social Entrepreneur, Design Thinker and founder of Zetu Africa (www.zetuafrica.org) and Margaret Osolo Odhiambo, a humanitarian and global health advocate from Kenya.

Compiled and edited by Ogweno Stephen, founder and CEO of Stowelink Inc, Optimist and visionary; and Mary Helda Akongo, Fundi Girls Lead and One Young World East Africa Coordinating Ambassador.