By: Edna Ninsiima

The first post coffee break panel on Challenges and Strategies of Promoting Effective Youth Participation boosted of four brilliant women with impressive CVs. From Tesi Umondi – the Kenyan PR Pactitioner and youth leader, to Victoria Abraham – the media practitioner from South Sudan, Rachel, the YALI alumni from Uganda, and Stella Nderitu – Kenya Youth Organization Leader. Gloria Kembabazi, a Ugandan attorney moderated the conversation.

What is participation? Gloria Kembabazi the moderator posed. Meaningful involvement. Active Engagement. It is Miss Tessi Umondi’s answer which was most thought-provoking. “Deliberate contribution.”

On the challenges to effective youth participation; Victoria Abraham cited tribal differences and lack of unity.”

Panelist Rachel from Uganda had something else in mind. “Money and confidence.” “We do not have money to run for political office for example and many of us have not worked on our confidence.” Stella Nderitu agreed. “Because we lack economic empowerment, we become easily susceptible to bribery schemes and self-interest leadership.”

So what can we do?

“Mentorship.” Stella offered. She also stressed that youth must have a voice and let it be heard; whether through speaking or even writing. Stella was on a good thought trail. Many issues have been brought to life through art; whether it is writing, photography and film too. Panelist Rachel said the solution was to: “Read, read and read.” Ms Abraham thought that working in masses was the way to go. “Instead of working to be a hero alone, collect people. We win in numbers.”

From the audience; one youth in the audience thought that we are not participating. At least not deliberately. Another one thought that information should be simplified and availed to youth. But is information not available to youth? Panelist Abraham said that our education systems have conditioned us to be future and not current citizens.” “Everything is about, when we grow up, when we leave school, when we are in power, etc. So we’re reluctant to get informed now because we’re waiting for the future.”

As her parting shot, panelist Stella reechoed a solution that has discussed the entire week – taking up spaces. “Don’t listen when they tell you that you can only make a difference in the future.” “If you want to run for office, run. If you can change the situation somewhere, go for it.”

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