As 15 May marks Somali Youth Day, the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) salutes Somali youth that helped this country win the liberation struggle, but that is currently waging a fight against poverty, lack of education, unemployment, violence, extremism and pandemic.
Today marks the 78th anniversary of the establishment of Somali Youth League (SYL) on 15 May 1943 that represented the most decisive turning point in our struggle for independence, as thousands of our young people decided to fight for the nation’s independence. This is an important day in our calendar that reminds us of where we came from and the sacrifices that gave us this freedom.
The workers of this country will never forget the role that was played by young people in liberating this country as they fought side by side in the trenches to liberate this country.
Despite the highly acclaimed role played by the youth under the leadership of SYL for the independence of the nation, it is saddening to see that 78 years after that heroic event young Somalis face a severe crisis of youth unemployment.
This Youth Day should be used as an opportunity to reflect and explore solutions that will help us fix these problems that have been heightened by the pandemic. This historic movement should inspire us today to rebuild a united country with inclusive governance that will help us eliminate poverty, low wages, insecurity, injustice and extreme inequalities.
FESTU would like to see the federal government and federal member states helping the significant number of young workers who enter the labour market by addressing both unemployment and underemployment. Most of the young people who have graduated are sitting at home and watching their dreams passing them by because of unemployment. Good number of them are exploited by criminal elements who recruit them into criminal and violent activities.
Young Somalis are also at a higher risk of being retrenched from their jobs during the economic upheaval. FESTU also wants companies and government institutions both at federal and state levels to absorb young workers upon completion of work readiness programmes, this would be in line with the National Employment Policy that was agreed by the government, FESTU and Somali Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Another major issue is sexual harassment and exploitation in the workplace that is still a reality for young women workers, this is despite the recent ratification of the ILO convention 190 on violence and harassment in the workplace.
Young women workers are particularly susceptible to sexual harassment and exploitation as in instances where a potential employer demands sexual favours in return for a job opportunity that is so often desperately needed.
Drastic measures need to be taken to sort out sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. ILO convention 190 must be domesticated and effectively implemented.
As we commemorate this important day, we reiterate our call for the government and employers to fully canvass possible alternatives to job losses. They need to take responsibility for the social costs associated with the dismissals of workers, especially young workers, who end up joining criminal elements or taking dangerous routes to migrate.
We also encourage young workers to organize themselves and take responsibility in shaping a new normal and a new economy that will take this country to a new direction.
As we commemorate this national day, FESTU and its affiliated unions recommit themselves to fighting side by side with the youth of this country to overcome and triumph over these challenges.
Happy Somali Youth Day!
Issued by FESTU General Secretary Omar Faruk Osman