An analysis of youth oriented built environment design in Uganda: The case of youth centres in Kampala
Nakiyingi, Mary Angella
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There is no universally agreed international definition of the youth age group. For statistical purposes, however, the United Nations—without prejudice to any other definitions made by Member States—defines ‘youth’ as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years. This definition, which arose in the context of preparations for the International Youth Year (1985) (see A/36/215), was endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 36/28 of 1981. All UN statistics on youth are based on this definition, as is reflected in the annual yearbooks of statistics published by the UN system on demography, education, employment and health. Today, there are 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years, accounting for 16 per cent of the global population. By 2030—the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda—the number of youths is projected to have grown by 7 per cent, to nearly 1.3 billion. As youth are increasingly demanding more just, equitable and progressive opportunities and solutions in their societies, the need to address the multifaceted challenges faced by young people (such as access to education, health, employment and gender equality) have become more pressing than ever. The United Nations youth agenda is guided by the World Programme of Action for Youth. The Programme of Action covers fifteen youth priority areas and contains proposals for action in each of these areas. Adopted by the General Assembly in 1995, it provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people around the world. According to the Brochure of Youth Engagement and Employment (YEE) Convergence of the United Nations in Uganda, the latter currently has the second youngest population in the world with over 78% below 30 years, second only to Niger’s 83%. Government of Uganda has put in place some legal and policy measures to address the unemployment challenge, such as: The National Youth Policy, the National Employment Policy for Uganda, the Skilling Uganda Strategic Plan 2012- 2022 as well as the National Youth Council- all of which provide a framework for youth engagement and employment. The Government of Uganda (GoU) Vision 2040 also focuses strongly on skills and employment. These mechanisms have however, not been fully utilized to engage youth in the development agenda of Uganda, thus limiting their ability to realize their full potential A variety of nonprofit and non-governmental youth organizations have also been started, for example Uganda Youth Network, Youth Alive Uganda, Uganda Youth Empowerment Scheme, Uganda Youth Skills Training Organization among others. These organizations have opened up youth centres all over the country which, despite all these efforts, attract a very small percentage of the overall youth population. The 2018 International Youth Day was aimed at promoting youth engagement and empowerment by exploring the role of safe spaces in contributing to freedom of expression, mutual respect and constructive dialogue. The event was to reflect on the significance of safe spaces in providing opportunities for sport, innovation empowerment and leisure time activities, while deconstructing barriers of judgment, hate speech, harassment or violence. Overall, participants were to consider ways in which safe spaces could promote an inclusive youth development towards the 2030 Agenda. This research was focused on investigating the incorporation of youth culture (values, needs and interests of the youth) in the design of the existing youth centres. This was done first through understanding the various needs, interests and activities of the youth in Uganda. Secondly, since these youth centres deal with youth from various backgrounds, the former were analyzed using the principles of inclusive design which are; responsiveness to needs, flexibility and versatility in use, perceptible information, equitable use and dealing with diversity/difference. This was done to check whether these youth centres meet the requirements of an inclusive urban environment for the youth towards the 2030 Agenda and to also provide solutions and recommendations for designing them more appropriately. The researcher went ahead to look into the physical safety of these centres and analyzed them using the key concepts of Oscar Newman’s principles of defensible spaces which are; Surveillance, milieu, territoriality and image. This was inspired by the theme for International Youth Day 2018 which was “Safe Spaces for Youth”. The researcher not only focused on bodily safety, but also went ahead to look at cultural and structural practices that were designed to encourage feelings of belonging, mattering and community within these youth centres.