International Youth Day 2020: Engaging Cameroonian Youth in Policy Making to Promote Health.

Young people in Cameroon have   been catalysing important conversations on crucial issues facing the country, such as leading the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic, the Anglophone crisis in the North West and South West regions, the Boko Haram crisis in the North as well as the need to reshape the country’s educational system, just to name a few.

The world currently has the largest generation of youth in its history with more than half of the global population younger than 30years. Cameroon in particular has a large youth population with over 60% of the population under the age of 25. (, 2020)

These young people represent a huge human potential, with massive unrealized benefits for both socioeconomic growth and health. As clearly stated by the WHO in 2018, to maximize the impact of investment in health, countries urgently need to engage more effectively with young people, who are not only beneficiaries of services but can also be leaders of health and sustainable development efforts. Youth Engagement entails empowering all young people as valuable partners in addressing and making decisions about issues that affect them personally and/or that they believe to be important. It takes place in youth-adult partnerships that are structured so that both groups contribute, teach and learn from each other.

Currently, opportunities to engage youth in Cameroon are very few. In the health sector for example, young professionals and users of health services have little or no say in policy, planning or decision-making that affects them. Despite the youth being side-lined in these processes, they end up being the target of public health policies and programs. The goal of these interventions being to change behaviour in the hope of preventing health problems such as STIs, obesity and tobacco related illnesses.

The positive youth development philosophy suggests that when youth are involved as advocates for their own health and wellbeing, policies and programs are likely to be more effective. In this light, Meaningful Youth engagement is an indispensable factor for Cameroon to achieve the ambitions of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Many youth in Cameroon are already driving transformative change and more are ready to do so but lack the opportunity and means. This youth represent a force that could transform health system and sustainable development. Awareness and efforts by many organizations in Cameroon (like the Nkafu Policy Institute) to engage and enable young people to participate in decision-making and policy dialogues are increasing. However, governance structures and a silo mentality prevent the creation of opportunities that are effective or fast enough to meaningfully tap into their potential.

The exclusion of young people from all levels of the health system delays growth and cost lives. Safe, effective and meaningful engagement is an important part of helping young people realize their full potential for health and wellbeing. This not only enables individuals to thrive, it also brings economic and social benefits for countries because a healthy population is more likely to be productive and prosperous. (WHO, 2018)

The potential for youth engagement in Cameroon is striking but how then can their power be effectively amplified to address the pressing challenges in the health system? Government structures and all stake holders should:

    Ensure that young people have a space, a voice, an audience and influence grounded in their agency and rights.
    Enable young people to shape and implement agendas.
    Explicitly commit to young people’s engagement and leadership by young people.
    Engage young people throughout the design and delivery of public goods especially issues that affect their health and rights
    Establish innovative partnership driven platforms so that young people can share their experiences and ideas to monitor and drive changes in the healthcare system
    Forge innovative partnerships with diverse organizations that engage with young people.
    Increasingly, a few young people are participating in shaping health policies in the country. However, there is substantial room for improvement.

Lack of youth participation and engagement is more likely due to barriers put in place by our adult-centric society where adults are most often the decision-makers (Watts and Flanagan, 2007). In order to develop engaged citizens and improve health, the government, civil society organizations and all stakeholders must intentionally and in collaboration with youth, create opportunities for youth to be authentically engaged in decision-making that affects their wellbeing.

Tanekeu Goula Durance

Tanekeu Goula Durance is a Social Entrepreneur and a Nurse by profession.
She is the Co-Founder of Quality Healthcare Clinic where she focuses on promoting preventive healthcare, maternal and child health and universal health coverage by offering free wellness consultations, comprehensive health education and quality health services at affordable cost. Durance is also a teacher and a youth advocate for Adolescent health and well-being.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She is a 2019 Obama Foundation Africa Leader, a 2019 C-Life Servant Leadership fellow and a 2016 Cameroon Leadership Academy fellow.

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Cameroon Concord  is an online publication covering and reporting on  local and world news, sports, entertainment, politics, business, and religious news. Serving Cameroonians .



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