Teens in Ghana Press Leaders for Details on 2011 Budget Plans

 

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ACCRA, GHANA – Genevieve Osei, 15, is a student of the Holy Trinity Senior High School in Accra, Ghana’s capital city. She is also a member of Curious Minds, a local youth development organization. Osei and dozens of other teens attended a colloquium yesterday to discuss the national budget for 2011.

While government budgets are not often topics of interest for young people, yesterday’s meeting was prompted by the National Youth Policy that was announced back in August. The policy aims to serve as the vehicle for empowering youth nationwide. “It is intended to provide guidelines and direction for all stakeholders involved in the implementation of policies, programs and projects for the development of the youth,” according to government statements.


Osei says she is here to beg the question of just what the implementation of this new policy will mean. Little additional detail about the scope and plan of the policy is known and Ghana’s youth have been let down before. In July 1999, the government launched a different National Youth Policy that was never implemented. Youth advocates gathered here yesterday in hopes of identifying the provisions of the budget statement and to demand details of how the policy will be implemented.


Osei says she wants the government to, “Walk their talk when they make promises to young people.”


Sidney Tetteh Hushie, chairperson of Curious Minds, the organization that sponsored the event, says when it comes to the national budget, young people need to learn to advocate for themselves. He challenged young people to, “be interested in the numbers so [we] can criticize constructively when things don’t go on well.”


Charles Dzradozi, a representative from UNICEF, says he believes while Ghana has made great development strides in recent years, issues of education and youth empowerment will be central to further achievement.


“As a country, Ghana does very well when it comes to ratifying policies and being signatories to them. But the implementation aspect of these policies is never seen, says Prince Derick Adjei, deputy national coordinator of the National Youth Council.


Government documents indicate that there will be many priority areas in the new National Youth Policy including, education and skills training, health, HIV/AIDS, science research and technology, employment, gender mainstreaming, networking and partnership, mentoring, arts and culture, and celebration of a national youth week.


Still, Seth Oteng, executive director of the Youth Bridge Foundation, a local organization, says he is not impressed with the new budget or the youth policy. Oteng says the budget statement only outlines a broad allocation of resources for various ministries, but does not offer a breakdown of how the youth stand to benefit in priority areas such as education, ICT, science, research and technology.



“The budget statement itself is not clear or explicit on what is in it for youth development,” Oteng says.



He also noted that there has not been much improvement in making the budget easily accessible in order to empower the youth to participate in the decision-making processes.


“Stimulating Growth for Development and Job Creation” is the theme of the 2011 budget here. While no official response was offered, the plan does suggest that 5,400 “deprived and unskilled youth” will be trained in vocational, technical and leadership courses.  But other project specifics and implementation tools remain unclear to the youth advocates who gathered here yesterday.