Invest in the future, invest in the youth

Among all advocacies that I stand for, I am most passionate about the youth. In past conferences I attended about the youth, I had presented the phenomenon of “youth bulge” as a vital concern of our developing society. The number of youths, 30 million or so, is not just statistically increasing amid the country’s high fertility rate, but the challenges confronting them are growing, too.

Employment is one problem. Surprisingly, not all those with college degrees can qualify for a job, notes the Department of Labor and Employment. DOLE says there are justnot many jobs available. As a former regent of Mindanao State University (MSU), I have seen thousands graduate yearly but I do not see any new industries absorbing them.

Social problems such as AIDS, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, and suicide are alarming because they directly concern the youth sector these days. These were presented in facts and figures by the National Youth Commission (NYC)  in the Youth Convergence on Sustainable Development Goals held in Baguio City where I keynoted the first day’s evening program, recently.

There must be a realization among the youth that they cannot skip planning their own future. Be it schooling, spending, or social media use, the youth should know not justthe consequences of their actions, but have the power to make an informed choice.

My panel on Reproductive Health and Family Planning, for example, has raised the value of understanding one’s choices. For women, total freedoms to be educated are often difficult than expected. Being out-of-school is high among females, and studies show that early marriage or family matters are the leading causes for this.

I urge special attention to the many displaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) who are now in Luzon, Visayas, etc. BARMM has the highest percentage of out-of-school children and youth in the country, and it is the girls who have a particularly hard time staying in school. Household chores, and poor menstrual hygiene management, including the lack of appropriate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities in school, have driven girls to distraction, causing them to miss classes and eventually to stay away from school.

Investing in the youth is a must. I challenge not just government but all companies to actively engage the youth through internships and youth development programs.

With the myriad of challenges and continued threats to our environment, states are being limited in acting on the various needs of the youth. Governments thus have to acknowledge that young people can be part of governing; they can be part of deciding especially their futures.

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