Oliver T. Mhuriro
Since the beginning of new the millennium in the year 2000, young people around the globe annually celebrate United Nations (UN) International Youth Day (IYD) on 12 August. The theme for International Youth Day 2022 is, ‘Intergenerational solidarity: Creating a world for all ages.’
The theme of 2022 supports the global notion that more effort from both younger and older generations is needed to achieve the set 17 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It’s vivid that intergenerational solidarity is a much-needed catalyst in creating ‘a world for all ages’ whereby across various generations, ‘no one is left behind’. In Namibia, the mantra of ‘leaving no one behind’ aligns with Namibia’s current President Dr Hage Geingob’s National Development blueprints namely, Harambee Prosperity 1 & 2 with key objective to stimulate economic, social and political development in Namibia through inclusive participation of all within the ‘Namibian house’.
Fostering intergenerational solidarity in Namibia will go a long way to create equitable intergenerational relations and partnerships that will equally benefit various younger and older Namibian generations. Due to prevailing ‘youth bulge’ across Africa, Namibia’s population demographics are also reflecting that there is now more younger people than older people in Namibia. This population demographics status-quo in Namibia demands the urgent need for sustainable intergenerational solidarity, partnerships and intergenerational consensus-building to be promoted and nurtured right from grassroots level. The younger and older Namibian generations have to peacefully co-exist without discriminating and undermining one another.
In Namibia, ageing can be emulated and respected while ageism has to be shunned and eliminated. At times we have all heard sentiments such as; ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ to do something which creates a barrier for both younger and older generations as ageism blocks them from realising their full potential in all spheres of lives. Ageism can simply be defined as how we think, feel and act towards others or ourselves based on our age. Ageism is the ‘elephant in the room’ in Namibian society just also as around the globe, ageism has to be honestly confronted and addressed by both the younger and older generations in Namibia. Ageism negatively affect both young and old generations through old people practising ageism against young people and young people practising ‘reverse ageism’ against old people as well. Ageism erodes solidarity, mutual respect and trust that must exist between various generations.
Those of us in Youth Development or Youth Work sector have a responsibility to advocate for the elimination of age-related barriers in e.g. employment, key decision-making platforms, political participation, access to healthcare and justice etc. which blocks young people from realising their full potential in various spheres of their lives. Young people continue to face the sad ageism reality of being told e.g. ‘they are too young’ to qualify for particular positions and even ‘too young’ to raise certain points or to tell older people what to do. On the other hand, as Youth Development practitioners we also have to educate and raise awareness among young people to eliminate ‘reverse ageism’ against older people. For example, there is growing sentiments from young people in Namibia expressing that through the process of succession, young Namibians feel that the older people holding key positions ‘have run their turn’ and it’s now time for them to step down and make way for younger successors. Due to limited resources available in any country, stiff consumption competition results in younger people expecting that for consumption to be equitable therefore, majority of scarce available resources have to be spent on younger generations. ‘The older people get, the younger they feel inside’ and this reality at times results in identity ageism against the older generations as younger generations will be expecting to see older generations ‘acting their age’ and not ‘copying’ younger people’s identities such as dressing and way of speaking.
With all that said, a sizeable number of researchers continue to express that ageism against younger people is more prevalent compared to ageism targeting older people. Ageism has to be addressed and combatted at local, national, regional and international levels as governments across the globe continue to be encouraged by various United Nations (UN) Specialised Agencies like World Health Organisation (WHO) to formulate policies and laws that will help to successfully combat ageism and foster progressive and sustainable intergenerational solidarity and partnerships around the world. Through implementing strategic interventions in Namibia to combat ageism such as promoting intentional education that raises awareness among Namibians to better comprehend ageism and the aging process, ageism against both the young and the old can be successfully combatted. Promoting and facilitating intergenerational dialogues across Namibian society right from grassroots level can reduce age-related stereotypes and prejudice which will in turn also help to foster much needed sustainable intergenerational contact and cooperation between Namibians of all ages.
From the lyrics of the famous song ‘Glory’ sang by the duo of prominent African-American artists namely Common (Lonnie Rashid Lynn) and John Legend (John Roger Stephens) we learn that; ‘No one can win a war individually, it takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy.’ Through conducting intergenerational dialogues and intergenerational consensus-building, various generations will be able to share their views and experiences to each other which opens-up an equal platform for younger generations to learn from the progress and failures made by the generations that came before them while older generations get to learn about the new battles and experiences of younger generations.
Intergenerational dialogues and contacts facilitates outstanding learning processes between various generations, setting a firm foundation for equitable intergenerational solidarity and partnerships to flourish within society through eliminating ageism stereotypes such as intergenerational mistrust, resentment and disrespect.
In conclusion, creating a ‘Namibian House’ whereby both younger and older generations can co-exist harmoniously exercising solidarity and mutual respect for one another is possible. Sustainable development can be attained in Namibia through creating a Namibia that is equitable and works for Namibians of all ages across social classes. I loudly say: YES to ageing, NO to Ageism!!
* Oliver T. Mhuriro is a Qualified Youth Development Practitioner who holds Commonwealth Diploma in Youth Development Work [Cum Laude] and Bachelor of Arts in Youth & Community Development [First Class: Cum Laude] all from Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL). Holds Certificate in Professionalisation of Youth Work in the Pacific Region from University of the South Pacific (USP-Global) of Fiji. Can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org