Across the globe, young people are at the forefront of movements to improve living conditions, economic opportunity, and society as a whole. Despite their activism, in many countries like Egypt youth voices remain overlooked. In others, youth are promised political participation that never comes to fruition, such as in Morocco. How do governments with significant youth populations move from little or no youth participation in the political process to become more inclusive and responsive to their citizens?
While there is no easy answer, any effective solution to strengthening democratic governance and economic opportunity must include avenues for youth to voice their opinions and demands. This point is particularly salient for the developing world, where over 87 percent of the world’s youth live.
In a recent interview, winners of the CIPE Youth Essay Contest 2011 provided advice, ruminations, and lessons learned that emphasized the importance of youth involvement in economic growth and democratic governance. This blog is the second in a three part series of interviews with the 2011 winners.
What ways do you think youth can play a part in making governing more inclusive and responsive to the citizens of your country?
Babatunde Oladosu: (2nd place, Economically-Sustainable Development, Nigeria) “To be effective in community and national issues, young people should: 1) Find productive work, 2) Take advantage of numerous gaps in agricultural production and marketing, trade, information technology and entertainment, 3) Organize at community levels—the power of a micro-group is vital, 4) Help extend education in their communities, 5) Hold their representatives responsible, and 6) Join the political process.”
Michael Olumuyiwa Kayode: (3rd place, Economically-Sustainable Development, Nigeria) “The rate of political participation in Nigeria is low and this presents the effort of the few politically conscious Nigerian youth as weak. It is therefore easy for some governments to see themselves as all-powerful in the decision making processes of the country. The youth should become more politically inclined and active. This will make governance in Nigeria more inclusive and responsive to the will of the people.”
Kirsten Han: (2nd place, Democratic Transitions, Singapore) “The youth are the ones who usually have less fear to overcome – they are not as in awe of the government as some in the older generations, and so they are more willing to speak out and take action. With an increasing number of young people coming forward to lead with their words and actions, the government will soon have to adapt to public pressure to engage and include citizens in the governing process.”
Judith Aduol Nyamanga: (3rd place, Democratic Transitions, Kenya) “[Youth can] organize forums that act as watch dogs to evaluate the prospects of democracy, challenges and ways forward to keep the government on its toes to ensure full implementation of the promulgated constitution.”
Chukwunonso Ogbe: (1st place, Corruption, Nigeria) “I believe that youths can play a crucial role in making governance more inclusive and responsive by not being apathetic to the on-goings in the political terrain of my country, Nigeria. Many youths exhibit indifference to what transpires in government circles and consequently Nigeria as a nation is yet to benefit from the positive ideas of her youths regarding nation building. I am of the view that Nigerian youths should develop the habit of asking questions from their elected representatives whenever they do not to be live up to expectations in the deliverance of the dividends of democracy to the public. Nigerian youths should not allow political activities and governance to be the prerogative of the elderly ones only, but should come in and work hand in hand with the latter, in order to make our county a better place to live in.”
Riska Mirzalina: (2nd place, Corruption, Indonesia) “As a youth who speaks about the interests of youth, I am certain that youth can contribute information and media to the current and future development of the nation. Indonesia is a growing democracy with a series of problem in government; sounding the voices of youth will enable them not only to express their opinions, but also make the government aware of youth demands.
Ruth Nyambura Kilonzo: (3rd place, Corruption, Kenya) “As the youth, we are very privileged in that we now have access to information in both the traditional and non-traditional media. We also know what is happening on the ground every day through our interactions and conversations. This puts us in a very good position to act as civic educators for the citizens in the country and also through our networks such as youth groups, ensuring that the governing offices know what is going on and encourage them to adopt a bottom-up approach when it comes to formulating and implementing policies for the country.”