Illustrative picture

Burkina Faso, analogous to several other low income countries across the world, has a predominantly young population. More frequently, in most of these countries, youth rhymes with STI / STD, AIDS, early pregnancy, alcohol, drugs, while this fragment of the population is expected to constitute the building blocks of an effective development process. This potential outcome which is the dream and the hope of the million of people living in extreme poverty can only be created if the youth are accompanied and educated. In Burkina Faso, the situation reveals a crisis of values ​​at all levels causing young people to rely on risky behaviors, with irreversible outcomes. Youth are lacking personal references and that results into a huge threat for our country which future heavily depends upon the future generations. Therefore, it is legitimate to describe the origins of these deviant behaviors, identify key responsibilities, and develop strategies to go about solving the issue.

Youth in Burkina Faso can be portrayed as a double-edged sword. Indeed, if well supported they will turn into a development power engine. In the opposite, they can hinder the process of change and economic growth. Nowadays, young people no longer have vehement leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Thomas Sankara to use as role models. Hence, they find refuge into other sources of entertainment. Sex has taken a prominent place in the habits of our youth to the point where it became so trivial that it is part of the consumer products. Concepts of sexual abstinence and virginity are old-fashioned. In families, topics related to sex are a big taboo and are not talked over with parents. This results in young people teaching themselves through the internet, where they are exposed to pornography and all its related drawbacks. This situation is also exacerbated by parents not spending enough time with their children for work reasons. The children are then brought up by their age mates along with TV programs which are not controlled although having increasingly sexualized, and drug consumption contents. Moreover, school curriculums lack civic and moral education classes. To that, we can also add the almost non-existent or non-functioning youth counselling centers. This accounts for countless issues.

Indeed, these behaviors make them vulnerable to prostitution, early pregnancies which also leads to abortion, delinquency, banditry, theft, alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases, dropping out of school and abuse of all kinds. Considering this, it is paramount to question the role that society plays in the process of solving these issues.

Youth are undoubtedly the future of our country. Therefore it is imperative that everyone works to create the conditions for a brighter upcoming. The Government, along with NGOs and Civil Society Organizations and through various projects and programs are trying to change the narrative by organizing activities such as theaters-fora, advertising spots, radio games and awareness raising campaigns on the use of contraceptive methods. According to a 2016 report published by Plan Burkina, there have been some improvements in terms of sexual and reproductive health in youth communities compared to the data of the previous decade. While this is a factor of good hope, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do. The obsolete state of the roads and the cultural constraints make rural communities hard to access. Sexual and reproductive health topics are easier to discuss in cities than in rural areas. To this is added an extra layer of obstacles brought by cultural and religious precepts.

In conclusion…

The youth are our main wealth. They represent a glimmer of hope and the foundation of a strong and economically independent nation. Like plants growing from the ground, it is crucial that they be watered consistently and brough nutrients throughout the course of their youth life journey. This pertains to education, teaching of core values, constant raising of awareness instilled in young people. The sun refers to control and protection of parents and public authorities. In summary, the future of the country and the entire continent is at stake, therefore it must be everyone’s responsibility to make sure his future is bright.

By Jean Franck OUEDRAOGO, Burkina Faso

Mandela Washington Fellow, for Young African Leaders — Civic engagement — Development Cooperation, Economist, Project Management skills, Free learner