There is an African proverb that goes: “What an old man can see sitting down, the youth cannot see standing up.” The wisdom that the elderly possess is something so powerful that they are able to see far, even if a young person was to put effort.
The thing about being young, is that the elderly (almost occasionally uninvited) feel the need to give advice.
Because they have been there and done that. Indeed a popular phrase in the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes reads “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Everyone has been young before and it is because of that, everyone is automatically an expert when it comes to matters youth.
No one remains young forever and everyone has been young before.
Experience is the best teacher. It is because of this, many times, the cry for youth inclusion is often dismissed. Turning to youth or involving them in the aspect of new ideas is not considered cultural. For instance, when youth are sharing ideas, they will have to do it in a way that is not termed disrespectful.
If one is to object to a particular matter, a smart individual chooses their battles and the particular timing —not anytime, anyhow.
There’s a method of how young people can engage elders, not just at home, but everywhere.
We are known for smiling and listening even when we don’t agree on an issue. But we would rather comfort an individual into thinking we agree or understand their point of view, but never to object an opinion, especially with someone not within your age bracket.
But where will this culture of ‘respect’ take us, especially when there are some things that are not that old under the sun?
What we do with disjointed government decisions that lead to uninformed development?
Recently, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered a country wide crackdown on private clinics that are offering emergency contraceptives to underage girls. Is that the way to reduce the rising number of child pregnancy? What are the root causes of the rise in pregnancies? Are these girls willing participants?
Many are raped, and many are not even at the age of 15 years old. Do we have a problem of sexual perpetrators? Do we talk about sex?
We hardly speak about these things but expect teenagers to know exactly what is happening. We are going to go for contraceptives which many girls can’t afford?
Are all navigating unchartered territories together?
Don’t we need all hands on the steering wheel?
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa, executive director, Siasa Place @NerimaW