Citizens for Bahrain analysis of views of young Bahrainis
One of the main pillars of a nation’s growth is the empowerment of youth. During the mid-20th century Bahrain’s younger generation played a prominent role in the growth of the industrial and financial sector, whereas today we notice high levels of disenchantment among many young people concerning the range of available opportunities for contributing to their society.
It is true that many young Bahrainis have high expectations as they compare their standard of living to richer neighbouring countries, while looking to the Government or their families for providing them with a better life.
However, many struggle hard to achieve improved living standards, better education and more opportunities. The question that arises is: What is the main source of the problem and what can be done about the frustration many young people feel and how can more opportunities be provided?
“Opportunities are limited”
“We are living in a very small country, hence it’s a given that opportunities are limited and levels of competition are very high in the labour market. I believe that our main problem is that many of us do not consider the circumstances of the country including our resources, while we compare ourselves to neighbouring oil rich nations” said Abdullah, aged 32, from Manama.
“The Government has a responsibility to empower young people. There are Government-backed organizations providing programmes such as the ones introduced by the Labour Fund ‘Tamkeen’ which have supported many Bahrainis in their education and business startups. Unfortunately some of these organizations fail in reaching out to the youth and in promoting their programmes. Hence there’s no awareness concerning the support they can provide;” said Sawsan, age 28, from Saar.
“Our parents grew up in an era of plentiful oil wealth, rapid development and easy jobs for life. That is no longer the way things work in Bahrain, so I think there is a need to educate young people who are more self-reliant and don’t expect everything to be given to them. We live in an age of transition and people’s ways of thinking haven’t caught up, which leads to a feeling of frustration when life doesn’t play out the way you expected,” said Salman, aged 32 from Isa Town.
“Too dependent on the Government”
“The problem lies within our youth themselves. They are too dependent on the Government for easy jobs, free education and other privileges. While comparing themselves to Qatar and the UAE, they should also compare themselves to bigger Arab nations where youth struggle more for a better life such as Egypt and Lebanon. It is the government’s mistake for giving things the easy way, hence now it has become difficult for our youth to face the current economic challenges as they were never prepared for it;” said Aisha, 37, from Muharraq.
“The responsibility totally lies with the Government. It has failed in empowering youth. We have no young influential leaders within our society, except for the field of sports where a few figures have been influential. Yet we have failed to come up with a strong national football team that could at least win the Gulf cup which has been running for more than four decades, a competition among eight nations only!” said Khalid, 25, Isa Town.
“We need more projects like the Bahrain International Circuit ‘F1’. It has been successful in creating jobs for young Bahrainis, a positive work environment, a venue for young Bahrainis who love motorsports to put their passion into action. The government and private sector should certainly invest in such projects that can bring about change and create more opportunities for youth;” said Ahmed, 31, Manama.
“Lack of trust towards youth”
“The country doesn’t seem to have a proper strategy for youth empowerment in all fields. Bahrainis are excellent in creating strategies and failing to implement them within a reasonable time. Civil society organizations, private sector companies and the Government have a shared responsibility towards youth empowerment. They should come up with more joint programmes and encourage youth to be more involved in sports, media, arts and all other sectors. This would help in diversifying the interests of the youth and lowering the level of competition, hence creating more opportunities in each and every field;” said Mariam 27, Hamad Town.
“It’s the lack of trust towards youth caused by our culture that leads to lack of opportunities and a general sense of disappointment. We have recently noticed many signs that the Government is strongly working towards empowering the younger generation, yet this is not enough in a country where the youth are majority of the population. Young Bahrainis should have a greater presence in all walks of life including politics and governmental posts. Empowering young figures will help in encouraging other youngsters to work harder and become more independent as the young leading figures can be set as an example for success;” said Manal 31, Budaiya.
“All we do is complain”
“Many young Bahrainis have been successful in different fields. We have to learn to become independent and set our priorities straight. Many of us care more about the cars we drive or the brands we wear rather than facing challenges and succeeding in our professions. This reflects very badly on our society where all we do is complain about how things are frustrating while ignoring the fact that we have a responsibility towards ourselves and our society and many of us do not understand that they need to give back to the society instead of just being on the receiving end.” Hassan 34, Saar
“Young Bahrainis are hardly involved in the decision making process in both sectors. The Government should lead as an example and start involving the younger generation that are more energetic and can bring about positive change. Following the 2011 political unrest that has caused so many tensions and divisions within our society, Bahrain has had two failed dialogues between the Government and the opposition. We have not noticed a strong young presence that represents the concerns of independent young Bahrainis in these talks. I believe that in order to empower youth, we should be considered in any talks about our own future. That would make a very good start;” said Ali 29, from Riffa.
The range of different opinions above show wide differences in the way young Bahrainis view society. In challenging economic times, it is unsurprising that so many Bahrainis share a sense of frustration for many different reasons. While the Government cannot solve everybody’s problems, there is clearly a need to do more to communicate and engage with young people, helping them navigate the process of education, job seeking and social integration.
The younger generation has excelled in many fields throughout the past few decades and they continue to do so despite the differences of opinion among us.
The empowerment of youth leads to the empowerment of the whole country as they are the future generation that will continue the path of progress and prosperity of our nation. Our aspiration is that the benefits that young people can offer society are matched with a greater value placed on their contribution and greater efforts to ensure that the voice of youth is heeded and acknowledged.