Integrating Zimbabwean youth in Ireland

Society & Culture | By Takudzwa Nyazema, Sociologist | 03 October 2015
PHOTO: © Takudzwa M. Nyazema

ZYI is a group based in Ireland looking to engage the Zimbabwean youth on different platforms. This may seem easy at face value but we expect many challenges. One question that comes to mind is how much of our culture and values can we keep and integrate with the new environment. This affects mainly the young generation where most of them would be Irish born or have spent most of their childhood in Ireland. Whereas, most of the mid twenties and up have experienced our cultural values, we realise the need to approach the younger age group differently. We aim to create a platform where the youth meet and share talents, ideas and discuss some challenges they face and perhaps share or find the solutions. We have people who have different ideas in different disciplines, for example in arts, music, education and even access to the job markets. As Zimbabwean youth, we commend different perspectives of thinking which in turn helps us promote each other’s individual respective talent.

The Zimbabwean immigrant youth in Ireland have an opportunity to experience different values, with the society becoming increasingly diverse. In terms of arts, it may benefit the young people to find a fusion of our own traditional music with what is marketable in different areas. 

We would have artists who are in the music industry here and we aim to connect such figures with the younger generation to show that they can break through the industry as well. We strive that the society experience a bit of our music and this is achievable when we are proud to represent our own. This has helped different artists from Nigeria, Ghana and South Afrika to be internationally recognised and we should strive for the same. 

ZYI is not a pioneer group as there has been the long existence of other groups like the Zimbabwe Heritage Trust. However, we aim to involve the youth in our current society, whilst realising and recognising the values of our parents, and consequently our own. The youth of today are a second generation and there has been significant changes on immigration, levels of acceptance and assimilation by Irish nationals. The immigration structure has continuously changed as the country itself had to respond to immigration from the late 90s to the early 2000s where most of the Zimbabwean immigrants and others, would have made their way to Ireland. There is now a shift in the challenges that the ‘first’ Zimbabweans here faced, and that which are faced by the young people today. Moreover, the family structure and roles have also changed where most young people do not have the privilege of having their grandparents, uncles or aunts, or even cousins around. As such, ZYI aims to forge such relationships through the meeting of different people and thus maintain a disciplined youth that will make a positive contribution to society. The social life also affects young people where some may opt to ‘fit in’ the society rather than to integrate and contribute to the society. We want to promote the integration and accept that integration is possible where you recognise, not overlook, your own cultural values and heritage. Only then can we realise how much of our culture we can retain in the Irish society.

 

Although relatively new, ZYI has been involved in Afrika Day celebrations and we are planning several events to celebrate being young Zimbabweans. We are looking to facilitate workshops where young minds can interact, as that would also advertise different talents and events and create new communication links amongst the youth. We also plan to create networks and connections through sport. There is a social football team and some various sports where people can get a chance to meet and engage. Another huge factor is we also plan to engage with different organisations from back home and so far had initial contact with ‘I am Zimbabwean’. It is still difficult not being able to visit home as frequent as we would like, but due to technology, home feels a lot closer than before. ZYI aims to create a new home in the Irish society where the Zimbabwean culture and Irish culture mix without taking anything away from each other, and hopefully create something great that both cultures can benefit from. In future, we would like to teach the Irish born Zimbabweans about our heritage and encourage engaging in the society.