Your vote is louder than a gun – that was one of the slogans of the AGA 2017 Regional Youth Consultations. Convened under the auspices of the African Governance Architectures Youth Engagement Strategy (AGA-YES), the consultation for East-Southern Africa took place from the 28-30. August 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania at the EAC Headquarters. The meeting was aimed at enhancing young people’s meaningful participation in electoral processes in Africa and getting youth actively involved in governance processes. It provided a collaborative, open and inclusive space for young people as key stakeholders of the African Union to contribute to and reflect on the draft African Union 10-Year Action Plan for Human and People’s Rights Decade.
This consultation contributes to the IIDEA project objective of making integration real for citizens, as it provides a platform for citizen’s engagement on regional policies and laws. Eight of IIDEA’s 16 projects engage with youth employment, entrepreneurship and woman empowerment, so this consultation was an important opportunity to network and to connect to other stake holders, share ideas, experiences and stories.
Four youth activists from the East African Community shared with the incubator for Integration and development in East Africa (IIDEA) their perspectives and visions for a prosperous and democratic EAC: Mr. Dickson Kamala, Tanzania (EAC Youth Ambassador), Petrider Paul, Tanzania (EAC Youth Ambassador), Subira Bawji, Tanzania (Initiative Governance) and Nerima Wako, Kenya (Siasa Place Youth Platform). Youth-led and oriented organisations and media practitioners implementing activities that are related to youth involvement in electoral processes, programmes and activities from all over the Eastern and Southern African Communities participated in the regional consultation.
As youth, they have been proactive in engaging in the regional integration especially in amendments for labour mobility for a while. Youth in the EAC face the challenge of lack of endorsement of their recommendations,or as Petrider puts it, “the pace has been slow”. Nevertheless, the youth ambassadors are pushing the agenda and view the consultation as a chance to have their voices heard.It is a chance to find out how to get other youth and young people involved and to discuss how to dialogue and engage. Subira wants to raise and address those questions, looking for support and building capacity.
The conference enhances the sharing of experiences and networking, not only through personal contact but, more importantly in interregional integration, through social media. Bringing the youth community together digitally and creating new ties through social media platforms, is one of the main outcomes of the conference. All participants were strongly encouraged to promote the discussions and network on all platforms using the #DGTrends hashtag.
Nerima underlines the importance of social media in her work for Siasa Place, a political hub and co-working space in Nairobi for women and youth main-streaming into politics. Through a Tweet she got to link up with Kamala who is based in Dar es Salaam. And from Twitter, they actually went to cooperate and engaging together in activating young citizens political participation across borders. Also offline. Bringing people together, that is the spirit of the 2017 regional youth consultations. And Kamala finds the right words for that:
“It’s the sense of being youth. We are the same age, share the same experiences and have the same challenges in common and now we need to come up with solutions. Together. Pamoja.”