Malawi’s First Lady Gertrude Mutharika has urged African governments to give space to the youth so as to find homegrown solutions to their challenges while exploring their potential so as to effectively take part in the development of their nations.
Dr Mutharika was speaking in Nairobi in Kenya where she was invited to make a key note at a youth conference whose theme is ‘Towards Healthier Africa; People, Systems and Innovations.’
The 3-day conference which has been organized by the Africa Medical Research Foundation-AMREF is aimed at bringing together researchers, policy makers, practitioners, the private sector, advocates for health and civil society together to reflect on home-grown solutions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals across the continent.
The conference will also be used as a platform for sharing of scientific research findings and best practices addressing health and health systems in Africa
Chief Executive Officer for AMREF Dr Githinji Gitahi said the Africa must stop looking down on its youth, demoralizing them with old-fashioned ideas but put them as central, focal points for the development of better policies.
Speaking when she made her keynote address to almost 200 young people from across Africa, the First Lady said Africa has a collective responsibility to empower the youth and support them to become active participants in the development of our continent.
“For a long time, we have sidelined the youth, and we have not given them enough space to unleash their potential. We need to take action around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the benefit of our young people,” she said.
“As we are aware, atleast 10 out of the 17 SDGs relate directly to the youth. The global development agenda is tilted in favour of the youth. We therefore have no excuse not to put the youth at the centre of our national development agenda,” added the First Lady.
She said there was need to prioritise the education and health of the young people in order to safeguard their future.
Dr Mutharika added that the conference gives an opportunity for the youth to brainstorm on innovative ideas which they can use to promote their livelihood, realise new ways of promoting their health and economic development.
“Young people need jobs; they deserve descent and meaningful employment opportunities. Many young people today are using social media for various purposes.”
“Social media can help to fast-track communication of important messages for addressing certain health challenges. Let me therefore urge you to use the social media responsibly,” she advised.
Speaking earlier, Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said one of the goals Africa must share as a continent, is the ideal of an inclusive and responsive healthcare system that caters to the needs of all people—including youth.
“Youth friendly healthcare systems that respect the needs of youth, and the core values of our communities, are critical to empowering this generation and securing socio-economic and political stability for the future,” she said.
At the conference, Malawi is being represented by three young people one of whom is Francis Makiya from College of Medicine who expressed happiness at being among his fellow youth and said he was looking forward to learning alot from his colleagues.