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There is a saying that ‘history is written by the old but made by the young’.

Youths serve as the building blocks that link the past with the present.  The youths represent the future and the hope of every society.

The position and value of this demographic group in the overall socio-economic and political development of any nation needs not be over stressed.

The youth bulge nearly 50% of the developing world population is youth and children[1]. There are 1.2 billion 15 to 24 year olds in the world and one billion live in developing countries[2].This is often referred to as the ‘youth bulge’ [3], as young people constitute a high and peaking proportion of many populations. The youth bulge represents both a challenge and an opportunity for development.

Large numbers of young people are an opportunity; an investment.

Youth participation in development:

•      Strengthens young people’s abilities to meet their own subsistence needs;

•      Prevents and reduces vulnerabilities to economic, political and socially unstable environments;

•      Promotes ownership and sustainability of interventions;

•      Helps gain entry into target communities and builds up trust and social capital.

Defining Youth

For statistical purposes, the UN defines youth as individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, whereas Malaysia defines youth as individuals between the ages of 15 and 40.

Youth do not constitute a homogeneous group; their socio-economic, demographic and geographical situations vary widely both within and between regions.

Notwithstanding these differences, regional-level analysis provides a general understanding of their development profile.

Empower Youth to Participate in Nation Building

The youths are a most strong, self-confident, creative and productive guiding force of any nation. They are often the ones who renew the conscience of a nation.

Young people also have a unique contribution to make to national development due to their energy, enthusiasm, resilience and an ability to inject fresh vigour.

Given an enabling environment, young women and men are both willing and able to take responsibility for their lives and contribute positively to society in which they live. So youth empowerment is vital for national development.

“Young people are empowered when they acknowledge that they have or can create choices in life, are aware of the implications of those choices, make an informed decision freely, take actions based on that decision and accept responsibility for the consequences of that action. Empowering young people means creating and supporting the enabling conditions under which young people can act on their own behalf, and on their own terms, rather than at the direction of others.” (Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerement: 2007 – 2015, Commonwealth Secretariat, London)

The concept of youth empowerment pounces from the need to enable young people to have a say in decisions which affect them.

The key stakeholders in youth empowerment are governments, inter-governmental and civil society organisations, the media, educational institutions, the private sector, family, kinship and community networks, non-government organisations (NGO) and, above all, young people themselves.

The youth constitute more than 40 percent of the total population in Malaysia and they are the most vital part of our nation.

But, are they empowered? Only a small number of the youths of our country may be empowered.

Today young people have hardly any scope for participating in decision-making at local and national levels.

Instead of playing an ideological role at the event of any national crisis, students today have turned to be the blind followers and cadres of political parties.

The existing gender inequality also remains a barrier in the participation of the youth community in nation-building activities, both in private and public sectors.

Sometimes, reports on the negative images of young people appear in the media. However, they do not represent the entire youth community. Only handful youths are involved in anti-social activities, or in partisan student politics.

It is true that the youth chapter of human life is a time of exploration and experimentation – a time of opportunity and also a time of risk.

At the same time, youth is a force for change and a resource for a country.

They have the potential to become a dynamic and positive force in shaping the future of a nation.


[1] World Bank 2010

[2] 2005 figures, UN Population Division, World Population Prospects, 2008 Revision

[3] Research undertaken by Henrick Urdal at the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Uppsala University, 2007: high youth bulges indicate countries ‘at risk’ when combined with economic stresses, but they are not necessarily a predictor of conflict