President Edgar Lungu says the enactment of Constitutional Amendment Bill 10 will enhance the participation of women and youths in national issues through the mixed member representation clause.

And President Lungu says it is discouraging that most beneficiaries of the youth empowerment programs fail to pay back loans.

Speaking during the opening of the 2020 National Youth Forum under the theme “I take the lead”, Wednesday, President Lungu called on members of parliament to discuss and debate Bill 10 in view of enhancing women and youth participation in national issues.

“As I was speaking to Her Excellency the UN Rep, the Minister and director, I said youths should not only aspire to be included in the political sector, they should be aspiring to be in all sectors in different activities in the country. For this reason, we are looking forward to the Constitutional Amendment Bill 10 in which we have proposed that there should be a mixed form of representation in Parliament which will allow the youths and the women to take part in public affairs by being included. We hope that our members of parliament will discuss Bill 10 with a view of enhancing participation of women and the youths in the issues of governance by being specifically included and provided for in the Constitution so that they can also have a say in the issues of governance,” President Lungu said.

“My government believes in your ability to make positive contributions to our socio-economic development. This is why government has continued implementing various empowerment programs aimed at improving your livelihoods. I am aware that these empowerment programs may not cover all your aspirations. Hence we are meeting today. We want to ensure that we get your feedback to enable us address some of the gaps that may exist.”

He urged youths to discuss and provide solutions to issues affecting them during the forum.

“The theme is appropriate and it should set you thinking as youth on taking the lead; charting the course on what you are supposed to do? I believe the theme is not a surprise to most of you because you are already doing something to improve yourselves and your respective communities. My government fully supports this theme as it impresses upon the youth, to take concrete action to transform their lives for the better. I am confident that you, our young women and men are capable of making positive contributions to national development. While the responsibility to take these positive steps lies with you, my government equally has a responsibility to provide a supportive environment to enable you realise your full potential. It is against this background that government, through the Ministry responsible for youth development, has convened this National Youth Forum. The first objective of this forum is to give you an opportunity to discuss issues that affect your lives and provide your own solutions to the challenges that you continue to face,” he said.

“The forum’s second objective is to provide you with an opportunity to interact with various players in youth development. This will enable you to learn about the services they offer, and you will in turn provide feedback on how these services can be improved to benefit you and your respective communities. Your interaction with the various stakeholders is to ensure that the services provided by government agencies and other partners are youth friendly and are responsive to your needs. During this forum, I am certain that your voices will be heard. This is what it means to take a leading role. This platform is not for you to just be seen, but to take an active role in addressing the challenges that you encounter and offering practical and workable solutions to those issues that you continue to face.”

President Lungu further urged youths not to wait for handouts but engage government ministries on empowerment programs and services.

“I, therefore, urge you not to sit back and wait for handouts, but rather, you should be proactive and engage the various government ministries to ascertain what programs and services are being implemented and offered for you to buy into them. This, however, does not mean that government ministries, provinces and spending agencies responsible for various empowerment programs should relax, but instead they too must be proactive, and provide you with relevant information to enable you make informed decisions,” President Lungu said.

President Lungu, however, said he was disappointed that most beneficiaries of the youth empowerment programs had failed to pay back the loans they obtained from government.

“Conversely, it is disappointing to note that while my government and its cooperating partners have continued to prioritize the implementation of empowerment programs, most of the beneficiaries have not utilized benefits prudently. Evaluations have revealed that most of the youths have not paid back the loans that they received from government; they have not paid for various start up equipment provided to them; or have abandoned the land given to them in the resettlement schemes,” said President Lungu.

“This is very discouraging and, you the youth need to change your mind sets, hence the theme for this year – I take the lead. Take responsibility; be patriotic and productive; make a positive change. I implore the ministry responsible to interrogate this matter seriously. Let us establish why our youth have abandoned this program. Perhaps, we need to revisit it.”