Event Reports

Engaging More Young Women to Participate in Democratic Governance

Second Debate of a Countrywide Youth Debate Series in Kampala

The University Forum on Governance (UNIFOG) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) have started a countrywide youth debate series to discuss meaningful youth participation in democratic governance. Students and youth leaders from the Central Region were invited to debate on current challenges the youth is facing and how to ensure effective youth participation on all levels of governance.

The moderator Yusuf Kiranda, Director of UNIFOG, explained why this youth debate series was necessary. He noted that while the constitution and the law provided representation structures for youth, like the National Youth Council, youth participation remained ineffective. He invited Jacob Eyeru, Mechanical Engineering Student at Makerere University and Ugandan Youth Ambassador to the EAC, Ivan Rugambwa, Journalism Student at Makerere University, Ahmed Hadji, President of African Youth Development Link, and Sarah Aporo, Guild Speaker of Makerere University Business School, to join the panel and to debate on why youth participation still remains ineffective and what can be done about it.

To ensure lively discussions, the audience had the opportunity to contribute actively to the debate. The co-moderator, Michael Mugisha, member of UNIFOG and lecturer at Makerere University, collected comments and arguments from the audience after every panel session.

In the first panel session, the debaters talked about why there was week youth representation. Mr. Hadji pointed out that the representation structures which are in place, were not effective and argued that the structures were favoring the NRM. Mr. Rugambwa agreed on that and explained that other parties lacked capacity and the fusion of the state and the NRM gave no space for other parties and pressure groups.

Ms. Aporo focused on the problem of less female representation among the youth. She noted that although the law provided affirmative action to ensure gender equality, discrimination against women remained high and discouraged young women from participating in politics. Concerning gender equality, Mr. Eyeru referred to the social construction of gender in Africa, which was dominated by men and emphasized the progress Uganda had already achieved to ensure gender equality. He argued that there was enough space for women to participate but a lot of women lacked the knowledge about their political rights. Moreover, he pointed out that the main reason of electing a representative should not be the gender but the competence of the candidate.

One participant argued that affirmative action policies existed but not were implemented. Another participant disagreed and argued that not the implementation of affirmative action policies was the problem but the mind-set of the youth, which still tolerated discrimination against women. Furthermore, the responsibility of civil society and Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) was brought up and one participant suggested providing more civic education at the grass roots to ensure gender equality and stronger youth structures.

Some participants blamed the government for not engaging with the youth and rather talking about them. Others blamed the families for not providing their children with basic democratic education. Because the audience already raised the issue of who should be blamed for the ineffective representation of youth, the panelists were asked to discuss on who is responsible for the current situation. Ms. Aporo noted that it did not help to blame anyone for the current problems and explained that when people blame the government they automatically blame themselves due to the fact that the government is representing the people. Mr. Hadji suggested rethinking the current representation structures and recreating them on the level of civil society. In his opinion, the problem of the current structure was the incorrect implementation. Mr. Rugambwa pointed out the missing accountability of youth representatives due to funding from special pressure groups and parties, which were not interested in mobilizing the youth.

The audience raised the importance of social media in the mobilization and communication process. Others disagreed with the alleged huge potential of social media and countered that only few people had excess to internet and used social media. Some participants argued that there was no unity among the youth and depending on gender, origin, and education, young people had different interests. One participant appealed to the audience to share their knowledge with those who lack education or have no access to relevant political information.

Mr. Rugambwa and Mr. Eyeru promoted issue-based campaigns to unite the homogenous group of youth and to avoid categorizing the youth according to political party affiliation. He suggested promoting the Youth Manifesto in order to demand for youth-oriented policies.

Bruce Kabaasa, Member of UNIFOG, summarized the discussion and welcomed Peter Girke, former KAS Country Representative and KAS Desk Officer for East Africa. He appreciated the long partnership between KAS and UNIFOG and thanked Mr. Girke for starting the partnership during his time as KAS Country Representative in Uganda. At the end, Mr. Kabaasa invited Mr. Mathias Kamp, current KAS Country Representative, to give his closing remarks, who motivated the audience to take action and keep discussions on youth representation alive.

Author: Nele Kr├╝ger, KAS Intern

unifog logo formatted