Harunah (on extreme left) with his colleagues during a deliberative democracy exchange (DDEX) workshop organized by the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, United Stated.

“A moral virtue and social attitude born of personal conversion/… Calls for a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good/… Seeking to transform into concrete initiatives and actions the words tolerance, fraternity, mutual respect and freedom” — Pope Francis.

This year’s International Youth Day theme is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World of all Ages.” This theme speaks to the current situation and holds the promise of liberation from intense prejudice and growing distrust of the systems we live under. By amplifying the voices of the young in a manner that accords them a fair chance to partake in designing solutions to problems they face, we “leave no one behind,” and thus a step closer to achieving the sustainable development goals (SGDs).

The global pandemic has especially revealed how interconnected and dependent we individuals are on one another at all levels. For the first time, the pandemic has brought together individuals, of diverse and multiple perspectives to discuss solutions, share experiences, and support and care for one another, highlighting the relevance of intergenerational solidarity.

It is also important to note that theme mentions “Creating a World of All Ages” which obviously means allowing the young generation to occupy a conflicted space in imagining solutions to their problems. However, ageism or age-related barriers are not only barriers that limit mutual participation, in fact, it should not be seen as the major barrier. Diversity and inclusion are direct drivers of a just, participatory, and fraternal world. The lack of strong awareness of diversity and inclusion gives a free flow for the “throwaway culture” which tends to cast aside the young, the poor, the weak and the most vulnerable. Several practitioners concede that the realization of the sustainable development goals will not happen in silo, it will require significant investment in awareness, mainstreaming the twin diversity and inclusion (D&I) approach especially in places where diverse people interact, and where their voices have systematically been disenfranchised.

The change of attitude towards the destitute, and the weak, and moving away from the attitude of indifference and marginalization may play a vital role in advancing open-mindedness of differences and understanding between people with divergent values, identity, and ideologies.

About the Author:

Harunah Damba is the chairperson of United Persons with Disabilities (UPWDs), an organization that provides social entrepreneurship opportunities for people with disabilities in Uganda. The organization has helped more than 50 people with disabilities build confidence and resilience and raise their aspirations to achieve a better and brighter future. Harunah graduated with an honors degree in biomedical laboratory technology from Makerere University, where he served both as a minister and representative for students with disabilities. He is an alum of the Talloires Network Next Generation Leaders Program which is an intensive, yearlong leadership development program designed to foster diverse talents and excellence among young leaders in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Harunah is currently participating in the US Department of State Sponsored Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Civic Engagement at the University of Arizona.