By Josphat Makaza-(Chiadzwa Community Development Trust)
The problem is, we are being left out where we are wanted most, they do not want us to participate and had never consulted us on decisions that affect our lives. The right of communities to participate and benefit from the extraction of minerals in resource rich areas must not be infringed or denied on the basis of being youths. There is urgent need to improve access to information by mining companies and the government must create a good learning environment for youths and children in Marange and Hotsprings. These utterances were made at a Youths Environmental Impact Assessment and human rights training workshops held at Hotsprings, Chimanimani on the 9th and 10th of October 2019.
The meeting which was organized by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA). The youths training program was meant to strengthen grassroots youths and to empower them with strong evidence to approach duty bearers in the quest to demand their environmental, social, economic and cultural rights.
The training also the capacitation of youths including capacitating them on how they can participate during the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process and their significance in involving themselves in the monitoring process after the EIA has been approved by EMA.
ZELA’s Legal Officer, Josephine Chiname told participants that it is essential for youths to participate in all stages of the EIA, “they need to find a way to get involved, to ensure the EIA includes accurate information that adequately reflects environmental concerns of youths and children”.
Chiname emphasized that the youths through the provision of the Constitution and the Environmental Management Act can also access the EIA document and any information from mining companies and the government.
Addressing participants ZELA’s Programs Intern, Fadzai Midzi said youths are not only sidelined in EIAs only but during stakeholder engagement also. “It is rare”, she said, “to find youths or even a youth representative in focus group discussions and in engagement meetings”.
The youths proposed to launch a campaign that is meant to elevate their voices and to tell their never told stories and struggles in the mining areas.
Abigail Masibhera a youth from Marange ward 18 said by attending the training, she can now stand against the violations of environmental rights and had expressed need to impart EIA information to other youths. She also said as youths they need information and skills for their transformation.
The youths however expressed concern over the failure by the government to provide them with a school following the relocation of Chirasika Primary School. The youths said this has resulted in school dropouts and other children walking ten kilometers to school.
ZELA’Senior Programs Officer, Nyaradzo Mutonhori said ZELA will continue developing and setting guides that set guidelines for strengthening youth’s involvement in development. This is one of ZELA’series of youth engagement meetings. The inaugural one was hosted in Harare running under the theme, Towards A Children and Youths Based Environmental Justice whose conversation ran under the hashtag #OURENVIRONMENTOURLIFE.