Over 68% of Zambians are below the age of 24, the fifth youngest population in the world
On Thursday 11th August Zambia will elect both a new President and National Assembly, and will be voting in a constitutional referendum to decide whether to amend the bill of rights. This referendum is critical to the lives of youth in Zambia, as the bill of rights currently gives all Zambians the right to food, shelter, employment and healthcare.
Restless Development Zambia [link] has been engaging first-time voters across the country to make sure the political system engages with the increased appetite of youth to participate in voting.
We need to change the way we think about what youth can do.
- Says Harriet Mwiinga, Zambia Country Director for Restless Development.
As well as working to engage young people to participate in governance, Restless Development highlights the importance of a non violent election. Zambia’s reputation as a peaceful country (with no violence after last year's presidential by-election) is at risk as the run-up to Thursday's poll has seen clashes between rival supporters.
What have Restless Development been up to?
We have been raising awareness of the importance of non-violent elections by hosting a Run For Peace Marathon and will continue taking this message to the country after the elections with a March For Peace on the 26th in Kabwe.
Our Ishiwi (My Voice) programme recognised that young people lack access to youth-friendly information about politics, their rights and responsibilities, and opportunities to interact with those in power. The hugely popular Ishiwi Radio Show has been hosting election discussions
Example podcast - getting under 18s asking questions, and using cartoons to illustrate the barriers young people might face when voting.
The Ishiwi Roadshow involved young celebrities such as B Flow to host entertainment and stage political debate to sensitise communities and #SayNoToPoliticalViolence.
“Differences in political views don't mean fist fights, just hold hands and unite!”
We mobilised 250 young people across Central Province to engage with the Ministry of Youth. The meeting addressed the provisions of the youth policy and the young people were enlightened on how they could use dialogue with their civic leaders on issues directly affecting them.
As part of the Tikambe Youth Media Programme, Restless Development has facilitated a number of policy dialogue meetings involving young people in decision making process at the national level. The National Dialogue meetings are aimed at providing young people with platforms to meet their national leaders and present key issues affecting them in health service provision and encourage action from government.
An election countdown series on Restless Development Zambia’s Facebook gave advice on each stage of the election process, from how to register to vote, to what a voting card looks like.
As a result of these campaigns, more young people recognise the importance of participating in decision making and understand the electoral process.
I hear from young volunteers every day that all they want is a platform for them to be heard, be provided with the space to voice out issues affecting them, and to be considered during policy formulation on issues contributing to national development. Young people should be transformed from mere participants and beneficiaries to partners in development. Young people should be seen as an asset to the nation and not a problem.
- Harriet Mwiinga