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By Hanning Babyetsiza
Uganda ranks second in Africa and has one of the world’s youngest population with 78% of this
population below the age of 30 years. Young people are a resource to our nation; they provide
innovatively new and creative thinking and discoveries to our state, local communities and to
themselves as individuals-leaders of today and tomorrow. Therefore, their participation in
decision making processes about policy and governance issues that affect them and their
communities is important,
I was part of the Reignite Africa team that carried out rapid qualitative assessment studies in
form of focus group discussions in Mayuge and Rukungiri Districts to assess youth leaders’
engagement in governance and accountability processes at the district levels to understand best ways to support and partner with them. they stated that their biggest challenge inhibiting them from fair participation in decision-making processes is limited resources-and these include knowledge, finances, space, lack of information and the failure to be listened to by the district leaders.

For instance, some pointed out that they cannot reach out to their fellow youth at the
village level because they lack transport means to remote areas. In the two districts, it was
discovered that youth leaders are not able to participate fairly in decision making processes
because they do not have the appropriate training from local Government to induct them into
their roles.

How do you expect youth leaders to participate in decision making when they are
ill resourced right from the local level?  The little finances they are supposed to be receiving at district levels disappear due to high levels of corruption. In a recent report by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, titled, “Status of Problematic Youth Projects” it was revealed that in key youth projects, millions of shillings have been stolen in direct theft or through collusion with Government Review and or redesign the program in order to ensure
that young people’s livelihoods are impacted?

Can young people get engaged in the processes when they do not have a chance and space from
where to discuss matters that affect and relate to them? can they even fairly compete with other leaders who have the required resources in the execution of their duties? Definitely not. So, why can’t the Government equitably distribute the available resources so that young people as citizens of Uganda can also benefit?

In “Youth Exclusion, Violence, Conflict and Fragile states,” Fraser and Hilker argue that each and every generation looks at the next step as a source of their hope and change strategy. They further reveal that history has it that without youth inclusion, individual states and consequently a multilateral system as a whole face a growing a crisis of credibility and legitimacy. It should be noted that subject to our constitution, it is clearly stipulated that participation in governance processes is a fundamental right and not a grant by the state.

The National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy (NODPSP) II (i) is to the effect that the state shall be based on democratic principles which empower and encourage active participation of all citizens in their own governance. This does not in any way exclude young people. The objective is in essence providing for the fact that there shall at all times be active participation of all citizens in their positions at all levels, decentralization of government functions and powers, wide representation in the composition of Government and the independence of Civic organizations to carry out their objectives.
In Uganda today, young people are denied their rights, they are no longer looked at as being
younger or children and so no need of care and support, neither are they recognized as adults-
they are only looked at as a group of beings belonging to the opposition. They virtually
participate in governance and decision-making processes because the law provides for their
participation.

 

We must invest in young people for there to be active participation of all in
governance and decision-making processes in Uganda. Additionally, llabelling of young people as a special interest group should also stop, and they should also stop being used only during political campaigns to play vuvuzelas and be sidelined when it comes to decision making.
Hanning Babyetsiza is a Reignite Africa Policy Advocacy Fellow and Young Leader
passionate about youth engagement in policy processes and gender advocacy.

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