By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – The youth of Lesotho said they aspire to be equipped with tools, resources and opportunities to make an impact in their lives and communities.

These sentiments transpired during the recent Lesotho Youth Summit held over the three days in one of the hotels in Maseru.

This summit had attracted the youth from across the districts and experts in different fields to share and impart knowledge on youth about entrepreneurship opportunities, to embrace and exploit the digital spaces and issues of mental health amongst others as well as government departments that shared their offerings with the young people. 

Convened under the theme ‘Empowering youth to greatness’ the Summit had received the thumbs up from many quarters including the development partners based in Lesotho and the high-profile guests who also talked and listened to the youth.

The brains behind this initiative, dynamic young leader Tšepo Nkhabu said the Summit has been convened to facilitate the journey of walking together with fellow youth adding their vision can become a reality if they join efforts to pursue them.

He entreated them not to work in silos or “eating one’s cake” adding that partnerships can go a long way in reaching a common future destination.

“If we collaborate to break-down barriers in our missions we can see ourselves as one not separated by ideology but part of the world where we have excellent quality life with adequate resources so the next youth can begin the story by saying I was born in a world filled with love, unity and community where all our needs are met and we know nothing of strive.

“This youth will speak with conviction saying in this world the bond between my brother, my sister and [I] is unbroken – we are one,” he entreated them.

The owner of Hands of Life Youth Centre in Mafeteng told the participants the significance of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), carrying their message to safeguard the environment and communities.

The Summit hosted different speakers and experts that shared their journey with a view to foster confidence, instilling a sense of purpose to the youth, learning about leadership and how to interact and navigate with the systems and policies in their country. 

The young people also in turn used the platform to voice their challenges and engage the experts and business people.

One of the speakers who is also an author, Second Lieutenant Bothata Silase encouraged the young people to relentlessly pursue knowledge and education that are handy in navigating the present-day challenges.

“The way the world is structured you will not be able to write good proposals if you don’t have proper education, that I can assure, you will never ever write anything that will be of value to people who will be assessing you.”

The National Assembly Deputy Speaker Hon Tšepang Tšita Mosena guided them through the landscape of political leadership from a youth perspective.

“I would strongly recommend that now that you are here as a young leader you make it a point that you participate in the democratic processes of your country,” she said, stressing that they should cease to complain instead take a stand to elect the people who will run their affairs.

She commended the Summit, characterizing it as a “moment of greatness” for gathering Lesotho young leaders in one place to learn and share ideas and experiences.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative Dr Jacqueline Olweya said the world is not ready for Lesotho and what it has to offer. She said that change can only come through the youth leaders of this country.

Dr Olweya said the game changers are youth, women and technology.

“The world should see the youth in Lesotho as that change we aspire for, it is the youth who will make the greatest change in this country,” she emphasised.

The UNDP’s Resident Representative said the change will only be brought by youth as long as they are involved in every aspect of the development in their country be it political processes, economic processes and social processes. She underscored this by reminding the young people of the United States (US) sportswear brand FUBU ‘For Us, By Us’.

The Minister of Youth Hon Pitso Lesaoana said never had Lesotho hosted a conference outside the government organized by young people on their own from beginning to the end saying this move had “inspired” him.

“Slowly-slowly our youth is responding well, they are no [longer] fearful to hold an occasion like this on their own, which is a serious achievement.”

The Minister committed the governments to addressing the high youth unemployment although he did not delve into the specifics he said as government they have taken the task of “reducing unemployment”.

Also present was the US Ambassador to Lesotho Maria Brewer said the Summit shows incredible potential of Lesotho’s youth.

“It’s an initiative that embodies the spirit of dialogue, unity and empowerment. I am very delighted to see the diversity of voices represented… as hundreds of young individuals across Lesotho have come to exchange ideas and perspectives.

The Ambassador praised the Summit for facilitating a dialogue and meaningful discussion between Lesotho’s youth and decision-makers including representatives from Lesotho’s government, local and international organisations and the diplomatic community.

She continued: “These conversations are vital to charting the course of Lesotho’s future. I am confident that the ideas generated will contribute to a brighter and more prosperous Lesotho.”