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ACFODE@30: Harnessing Youth Energies in Gender Equality and Governance

Youth Democracy Forum

The Youth Democracy Forum organized by ACFODE and KAS will look at hurdles for effective youth engagement and bring together alumni of a debating competition on gender issues that was implemented by the two organisations in 2013.

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Uganda has one of the highest population growth rates in the world; the preliminary 2014 National Housing and Population Census results indicate that the country’s population currently stands at 35 million and that 50% of this population is below 15 years of age. Participation of youth (both female and male youths) in democracy and governance processes is institutionalised in legal and policy framework (national and international frameworks). The 1995 Constitution has very enabling provisions that encourage equal participation of different citizen groups in leadership. Article 32 (1), for example, requires the state to take affirmative action measures in favour of groups marginalized on basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, custom, or tradition, for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them.

Alongside the 1995 Uganda constitution, there are related laws that provide a context or entry points for youth engagement with the policy process, these include the National Youth Council Act, the National Youth Policy, the Local Government Act and the Access to Information Act.

However, in spite of the enabling environment for youth participation and engagement in matters of leadership at all levels (regional, national & local) including governance processes, the position of youth in Uganda, especially the female youth, is still wanting. The lives of millions of Ugandan youth are marred by poverty, inadequate participation in decision making, inadequate education and skills, and limited work/employment opportunities. Specifically, the influence of the youth in political decision making is still very low; beyond electioneering, the youth have not been able to effectively engage and influence the national political and policy agenda to their advantage. The socio-cultural barriers to youth participation are partly a result of patronage and patriarchy existing within complicated structures that limit their participation. Other contributing factors to this state of affairs are cultural and religious hindrances and low self-esteem partly resulting from low levels of education, confidence, and income. An assessment titled; ‘A Cross Sector Situational Analysis of Youth in Uganda’ carried out by YouthMap Uganda cited lack of education, money and ageist attitudes where elders refuse to support young people vying for political leadership.

Consequently, youth participation becomes symbolic, with young people participating in meetings, but not having real influence in matters of national interest. The low levels of civic and political education for the youth present them with limited opportunities of getting information about their rights and responsibilities and about the existing laws and policies, as well as the available avenues for their participation.

In 2013, ACFODE in partnership with KAS carried out inter institutional debate competitions in four universities namely Makerere, IUIU Mbale, Kabale, and Gulu Universities. Competitive debate proved effective in engaging young people in discussions on gender, participation, democracy and promotion of good governance as well as improving their research and public speaking skills.

In an effort to build on the success of the debate competitions and in view of the upcoming 2016 General Elections, ACFODE in partnership with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung are organizing a Youth Democracy Forum. The forum will provide an opportunity for young people to:

(i) Deliberate and voice their concerns on matters of governance, democracy and their general participation in the country’s development process,

ii) Interface with policy makers and implementers at different levels resulting in commitments and related actions for increased involvement/participation of youth in governance and decision making processes,

iii) Facilitate sharing of experiences in youth participation in governance and decision making processes, and

iv) Galvanize their efforts and strategies of effective participation in governance and decision making.

Topics of discussion will include opportunities for engaging with political parties, the electoral process and violence free elections, experiences from youth leaders and debate alumni, and use of ICT in mobilizing youth for democratic governance, among others. The forum is expected to inspire and motivate young people to contest for different leadership positions at all levels and effectively participate in governance and decision making processes thereafter.

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Metropole Hotel, Kampala


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Maike Messerschmidt

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Programme Officer +256 312 262011/2

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