Author: Rutendo P. Ngwena
Rutendo Ngwena is a young Zimbabwean with a passion for community engagement through entrepreneurship aimed at the creation of better communities. She studies Business Management and Finance with Arden University and currently interns in the United States.
I was born and raised in the sunshine city of Harare, Zimbabwe. I grew up playing with my cousin Kuda and we stayed true to the innocence of childhood – we played as the “equals” that we were and those were some of the best memories of our childhood together.
Today, our lives could not be any farther from the “equal ground” we once played on. I am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Finance abroad, while Kuda is a so-called “hustler,” a term that describes a person who would do anything and everything, legal or illegal, in order to put a piece of bread on the table.
I do not believe we are where we are today because I am more deserving or that he is less capable. Our differences are simply a reflection of the socio-economic status of our parents and both its transference and influence on both of our lives.
We were never as “equal” as we had perceived ourselves. He was the son of an unemployed mechanic and a vegetable vendor, while I was the daughter of a middle-class family of working professional parents who have sacrificed everything to provide me with opportunities for a “better life”.
To answer the question – How influential is the social status of one’s parents in determining a person’s future? My answer would be: extremely.
My personal experiences, of having been born and raised in a country where the poverty prevalence rate in some of our communities is as high as 96% compel me to examine the reasons why so many young people in my country are living in poverty.
I do not wish to disregard the Zimbabweans who have beaten the odds of their circumstances because their hard work and pathways to success are truly inspirational. However they are not the majority of Zimbabweans, nor are they the focus of the bigger issue.
The majority of young Zimbabweans in my generation are unemployed and living in poverty – a situation not unique to my country. In Zimbabwe alone, the poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines is found to be at 72.3% according to the World Bank data in 2011.
Having spent the past year at home, I spent a lot of time observing the “young population” who, if all things were equal, would be the economically active and income-generating demographic of my country. Sadly, I concluded that they were abroad, dead, (predominantly wiped out by HIV and AIDS) or educated but unemployed – a reflection of the range of socio-economic issues plaguing my country. This current generation of young people is born from parents who saw and experienced the short-lived post-colonial independence boom in Zimbabwe. The very same people who have subsequently lost their jobs and pensions and are living in poverty today.
I believe poverty in Zimbabwe is mainly system-induced, but a complex array of socio-economic issues, exacerbated by the rising poverty, has now marred a whole generation of young people, which will continue if left unaddressed.
In a country with one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, it is heartbreaking to see unemployed graduates living in poverty and starting a new generation of Zimbabweans. I do not believe the parents of this generation were lazy, incapable, or unwilling to adequately prepare their children for life. Instead, they were victims of a collapsing political, economic, and social environment, and the current predicament at work is intergenerational mobility.
I believe that to end poverty, we must break the cycle of its intergenerational transmission and work towards the creation of healthy economic communities and countries which offer its members equal opportunities to life.
I believe that in our world, young people cannot afford to be passive about the issue of intergenerational mobility. Instead, we must be proactive, passionate, and united to innovate “ideas of the future” that will tackle socio-economic challenges in our different communities and put an end to poverty.
With the goal of ending poverty by 2030, the World Bank has created a platform for crafting innovative solutions that have the power to change the narrative of economic mobility. I believe as young people and as the future leaders of tomorrow, we must respond with urgency, determination, and ownership lest we perpetuate this cycle and continue the narrative for generations to come.
Poverty, among other socio-economic challenges in our countries, will not be a limitation. Instead, it shall be the fuel that will channel our brilliance in both raising awareness of intergenerational mobility and eradicate poverty and inequality in our communities.
My cousin Kuda and I deserve equal opportunities, and our children must experience that reality!
This post is a part of a series on intergenerational mobility hosted by Friendship Ambassadors Foundation (FAF) in support of the World Bank’s #EndPoverty campaign. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FAF or the World Bank.