Youth empowerment is a process whereby young people gain the ability and authority to make decisions and implement change in their own lives. In Nigeria, youth empowerment occurs in homes, at schools, through youth organizations, government policy-making, reality Tv Shows, and community organizing campaigns. Youth empowerment ranges from economic empowerment to social, Ideological, educational, technological and political empowerment. The term “youth empowerment” combines two important words (“youth” and “empowerment” which must be defined differently. The United Nations, for statistical purposes, defines ‘youth’, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years. While the Webster Dictionary (1998), defines empowerment in three ways “(1) to give official authority or legal power to; (2) enable; (3) to promote the self actualization or influence.” The strategy proscribed by the first definition can be quite effective provided that the party being empowered already has the competencies needed to achieve the desired outcome. The strategy does not work well when it is plugged into a framework of youth development in which empowerment itself is being used as a strategy for developing competencies in youth. , youth empowerment does the following for African youths:
The ability to make decisions about personal/collective circumstances, The ability to access information and resources for decision making, Ability to consider a range of options from which to choose Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making, Having positive-thinking about the ability to make change, Ability to learn and access skills for improving personal/collective circumstance. Ability to inform others’ perceptions though exchange, education and engagement. Historically speaking, it is not clear when the term ‘Youth Empowerment’ entered into the Nigerian socio-political and economic vocabulary. The term perhaps, resonates more as an attempt by stakeholders to draw attention to the ecological degradation and economic ‘powerlessness’ of those living in the oil rich Niger Delta area of Nigeria. The Niger Delta youth adopted militant approach to fight for resource control in the region. The Federal Government responded by arresting what they perceive as youth restiveness in the Niger Delta, and thus, introduced various program targeted at diverting the attention of the youths. This might have influenced their use of the term ‘youth empowerment’ as a new vocabulary in governance. In the words of A. Emielu (2008), the concept of youth empowerment in the Niger Delta area could be seen more as a negotiated relationship between government agencies and the ‘restive youths’, born more out of fear of destabilizing the national economy, than by the need to develop the creative potentials of the Nigerian youth.
1.2 NEEDS AND YOUTH EMPOWERMENT IN A STATE
Nigeria has implemented several ad hoc stabilization or reform measures in the past to empower the youths. Some of them include the Structural Adjustment Programme, National Directorate of Employment, National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), etc. Therefore, focusing on youth empowerment in a State requires that one picks one of these proagrammes and analyses its implementation and its impact on the youths in a State. A State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy was launched by the State Government in 2004 as a plan of action aimed at tackling the problems of development in Taraba State. The essence of developing the plan was to reduce poverty, generate employment, create wealth and re-orientate the value system in the State and pave way for sustainable development over a short to medium term from 2005 to 2007. Therefore This research seeks to examine the evolution of youth empowerment in Taraba State with emphasis on young people both in rural and urban areas of the state. If empowering young people means creating and supporting the...