MAURITIUS FAMILY PLANNING WELFARE ASSOCIATION—WORLD POPULATION DAY CELEBRATIONS 2014: INVESTING IN YOUNG PEOPLE

In Africa, over 30 per cent of the population is between the age of 10 and 24 and could offer enormous potential gains to the continent if their unmet needs are taken care and their rights are fulfilled and proper investment is made in their development.  The population of young people is growing rapidly in Africa and projected to decline in most other parts of the world – In Mauritius the declining fertility rate, a youth population of about 24% coupled with an ageing population turning around 30% in 15 years of time calls for action which we need to undertake at global, regional, national and local level.  The youth which accounts for 1.8 billion young people representing the future, energy and innovation are shaping social and economic realities and challenging norms and values in their respective countries. Many young people are entangled in the vicious circle of poverty, inequality and human rights violations that prevent them from unleashing their potential.
Investing in young people is theme for the celebration of world population day 2014. This critical mass of young people should not only be viewed as a challenge but also full of energy and hope for the continent and the country. What type of investment should we make in the youth of the country? Massive investment had been made in the health and education sectors for our younger generation to have access to healthcare services and free education.  The sexual and reproductive health indicators bears testimony to the improvement of the status of our younger generation compared to their counterparts in the Africa region. Our youths are also well connected through the IT and social media with the recent investment in the IT sector in school and educational settings in Mauritius and Rodrigues. Different forms of electronic communication and micro blogging is taking place therefore creating a platform for information sharing and exchange of ideas. Social media has strengthened past and present friendships through which they are benefitting and even many find opportunities for online dating. We should acknowledge that internet has revolutionized the world as there will be always someone with whom you can communicate and exchange ideas even if you don’t know the person.

At the same time it is also high time for profound reflections before it is too late.  Our younger generation should not become addictive of social media facilities and network at the expense of their own privacy, social activities and family life. Many are becoming selfish, egocentric living in their own world with their privileged connections, having preference for virtual connections, wasting time in such activities, depriving themselves of quality family life, entertainment, dialogue and discussions and face to face interactions. Many are even depressed and live in anxiety when there is no connection. Young people should be careful of misuse of such facilities and beware of spam, virus attacks, hacking which may result in loss of privacy.  Online bullying is becoming a common feature. The most important is connections with fake profiles and sexual predators roaming social media. Many young people have been victims of such villains because of fake profiles, false promise of marriages, business proposals, and without forgetting the ponzi schemes.   Some couple relationships have even been ruined through the social media network.
Investing in youth, yes! But our youth should remain connected to their learning environment, family and community. Most importantly social media should bring the younger generation closer to the older generation rather than alienating them. Parents have a critical role to play in monitoring their children online social media use.  Social media and internet has positive impact but its correct and efficient usage depends how it is managed at family and work settings.  Being aware of the risks and vulnerabilities our youth should make use of it in a positive rather than become completely dependent on it. Mauritian youth should not become a cut copy and paste product but remain a trademark in itself.  Our country will be faced with a multitude of social and economic challenges if issues are not addressed at the right time with an ageing population. We should invest in our younger generation but the latter should remain accountable in return.  Our younger generation should be inspired by innovation, simplicity, humbleness but above all hard work and sustain the path of progress and development.
Hence the Mauritius family Planning Welfare organized a series of sensitization sessions in primary and secondary schools, a debate on the impact of social media on youth, will soon release the findings of a survey on teenage pregnancy, will be present at Caudan waterfront to provide youth friendly counseling services on 19th July to mark the event.