At a time when there is too much hype around Facebook and Twitter, it’s good to reflect on what active youth citizenship is really all about. It surely isn’t about liking someone’s cause or link on Facebook, and it surely doesn’t stop at a 140-character plea to sign a petition. Active youth citizenship is about young people doing real things offline to bring about positive and sustainable changes and development to their communities.


To purport that the users of Facebook and Twitter are real revolutionaries simply by the social media tools that they use is not only absurd, it’s an injustice to those who are doing amazing things on the ground in countries where the digital divide is huge. This is especially true in the case in Eritrea, where many youth are mobilized in development projects that directly benefit themselves and those who are in underdeveloped rural areas, some of which might not have electricity let alone computer literate farmers and pastoralists who plan to increase their standard of living by using Web 2.0.


In late 2009, I had submitted an essay to the 2009 CIPE International Essay Competition. Despite the fact that I took too much time procrastinating, starting to write the essay only two days before the deadline, I managed to come in second place in the category “Citizenship in a Democratic Society.” Eritrea has a long way before it becomes the democratic society it aspires to be (I have yet to have read about a country that has achieved full democracy in a couple of decades). Poverty is high in Eritrea, and many institutions have yet to become fully developed, but instead of playing ‘Facebook warrior’ ranting about what needs to be done, there are hundreds of thousands of youth in Eritrea who are making positive change on the ground every day. How is this so? In my essay, I tried to address some key points and strategies that the youth have used, most of which can also be adopted in other developing countries. Check it out!

Article at a glance

  • Citizenship is not innate; it needs to be taught and cultivated in young people through civic education and leadership training.
  • Citizenship includes both rights and responsibilities; for youth to become active citizens, they need to be given a voice in decision-making processes that affect them.
  • In order for young people to develop a sense of citizenship, they must first realize the positive role they can play through active civic participation.


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