The UNDEF PROJECT
In The project was necessitated by the fact that youth are marginalized and underrepresented in the local governance structures and processes which lenders them a sidelined group despite being the majority of the country’s population comprising over 65% of the total population
Among the factors, youth do not know the existing local governance structures and avenues of participation and so they lack interest to participate and meaningfully engage duty bearers in demanding their rights. Furthermore, they are not aware of the roles of duty bearers such as the councils, members of parliament, and councillors. Evidence also suggest that there is also negative mind set among the duty bearers that young people are childish and incapable of making sound decisions in the governance structures. Lack of platform for the youth to engage with duty bearers on specific issues for inclusive and participatory decisions coupled with lack of enforcement of existing policies to accommodate the youth also aggravate the situation.
This project was therefore designed to cover such a gap. The goal of the project is Inclusive and increased participation of youth in local governance structures in Malawi while its objective is empowering youth to effectively participate in local governance structures in Malawi in the three regions, (Northern, Central & Southern). At the end of the project it is anticipated that there will be increased capacity of members of youth organizations to meaningfully participate in local governance, increased public and local government awareness of the role of youth in local governance and; strengthened local governance structures through increased participation of youth in decision- making processes
In rolling out the project, MHRYN organized a series of Consultative meetings and they included; central region consultative meeting, southern region consultative meeting, Northern region Consultative meeting and finally the National Consultative meeting. The regional meetings took place at bridge view hotel in Lilongwe on 12th and 13th December 2014, the southern region consultative meeting was held at Grace Bandawe Conference centre in Blantyre on 19th and 20th December 2014, while the Northern region Consultative meeting took place at Ilala Crest Lodge in Mzuzu on 8th and 9th January 2015. The regional meetings were followed by the National Youth Consultative meeting which was held on 29th and 30th January 2015 at Lilongwe Hotel in Lilongwe. During the regional meetings, MHRYN invited all youth affiliates organizations from those regions. From the regional meetings, one organization was required to send its director to the national meeting to represent each district where MHRYN has member affiliate.
During the consultative meetings, participants discussed and shared experiences and challenges of youth participation and why there is youth apathy in local governance in all the three regions of the country.
The following were some of the identified challenges
Prejudice; Mindset are biased against the youth especially young women
Culture; Decision making processes marginalized the youth Limited knowledge on how VDC,ADC and Council operate;
Marginalization :Youth are not given any chance to say even when they are in the committees Lack of access to information and capacity among the youth on how to participate in local governance
Discriminatory policies and other documents
Lack of interest among the youth in local governance
Paternal system, marginalizing females
Lack of clear guidelines in ensuring youth participation and representation at local governance structures and Prioritization of youth activities
Lack of youth influence
Elders perception towards the youth(negative perception
Lack of platform for youth to voice out their concerns
Lack of networking and interaction with other youth
Lack of capacity/ leadership: access to resources, skills in leadership and information
Participants also managed to identify and recommend key mechanisms and solutions on how to increase youth participation in henceforth. The following were the solutions which participants came up with; Capacity building e.g. trainings, internship, and exchange visits etc. Uniform language to be used in local governance meetings Creating awareness to youth on how they can participate in local governance Advocate for inclusion of youth in various local governance structures Young people should be involved in monitoring of projects at all levels Advocate for clear guidelines for youth participation to ensure representation Civic education to elders duty bearers to change the
perception Strengthening youth groups and networking to create platforms for youth Conducting exchange visits for youth to learn from others and other councils Participants also managed to isolate possible issues that will be thematic areas for advocacy and sensitization which will form part of the issues in the advocacy strategy. The themes were discussed during regional consultative meetings and later harmonized during the national consultative meetings into four key priority issues thematic areas from the challenges that were identified which will be advocated for with an action plan outlining key roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in each of the project activities which will inform the advocacy strategy and the roadmap for the project activities such as – capacity building, advocacy, and sensitization campaign: .