By Yusufu S. Bangura
Ahead of the June 24th general elections, Head of Governance and Civil Society Organisations at European Union (EU), Serena Bertaina has noted that strong democracy needs youth participation.
She made the above statement on Thursday,May 18, during the launch of the 3-days traineeship programme for youth in democracy at the Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.
The traineeship programme was launched by the European Union, International IDEA and Political Parties Regulation Commission (PPRC) in order to mobilize and capacitate young Sierra Leonean university graduates to acquire theoretical and practical skills on electoral and democratic governance, and to develop their interest and participation in the political processes in Sierra Leone.
She said they were most pleased to provide financial support to the youth traineeship and internship programme and contribute to Sierra Leone’s efforts to promote youth civic engagement and political participation.
“Strong, inclusive democracies need youth participation because in Sierra Leone like in Europe and elsewhere in the world, young people are politically actively engaged and often at the forefront of global movements and campaigns,” she said.
She further noted that youth are also the generation most likely to be underrepresented in policy making because leaders tend to belong to older generations, leading to decisions that may not reflect the realities of young people.
“For these reasons, we are firmly committed to making sure that all young people have the right and are given the opportunity to participate in democratic processes, in order to increase their voices and leadership, and to become active citizens in Sierra Leone and across the world,” she said.
She encouraged youths to take the programme serious because through mentoring and experiential learning they will be able to take active part in the governance and democratisation process of the country.
She added that they have not just been awarded an opportunity to learn, but an opportunity to act, to contribute to the critical work of PPRC and to become champions for development.
Head of the Sierra Leone Country Programme at International IDEA, Dr. Idrissa Mamoud Tarawallie said after the three-day training, the first batch of 20 youth trainees will be deployed at the PPRC office for a period of six months for both mentoring and experiential learning on the work of PPRC.
He said the youth will also work with the political party regulation and elections management to provide human resource capacity to the commission, adding that the trainees were selected through a competitive recruitment process led by the PPRC with technical support from international IDEA.
He further said it is expected that following the maiden deployment, another set of trainees will be recruited, trained, and deployed with other democratic governance institutions in Sierra Leone.
“Today’s launch event will be followed by a three-day induction and training program that will draw from International IDEA’s youth academy curriculum, the mandate and functions of the PPRC, and the duties and responsibilities of the trainees,” he said.
Tarawallie continued that the training will also include 11 interns from the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) of the National Youth Commission which will bring it to 31 young trainees who will be deployed to the PPRC.
He also said young people from within the West Africa sub-region were also invited to share their experiences in youth democratic participation and leadership within the region, to inspire the trainees and to strengthen regional networks.
“Mobilizing and capacitating young people to be interested and meaningfully participate in democratic governance processes, is part of democracy nurturing and strengthening, which is an overarching objective of International IDEA, to nurture democracy across the world,” he stated.
Chairman of PPRC, Abdulai Masiyambay Bangurah, said the youths they train will be deployed to places where they do not have offices for them to monitor the elections process, adding that they have talks with ECSL to provide accommodation for those that will send out.
He encouraged them not to take part in any political violence, but rather they should interact with all political parties and should have confidence in their work by not giving information that will undermine the peace of the country.
‘’The commission is pleased to be the trailblazer in mobilizing and capacitating young people to meaningfully participate in electoral and democratic governance processes through internship and training programs that will allow us to nurture the next cadre of democracy defenders, especially considering our new mandate enshrined in the 2022 PPRC Act,” he said.
In his key note address, Commissioner at National Youth Commission, Ngolo Katta said both the ministry and the commission were extremely pleased that their commitment to lifting the status of young people has been taken up in a more meaningful way by national institutions such as PPRC and development partners.
“This is laudable and we urge International IDEA and its donor, the EU to collaborate with the National Youth Commission in the future,” he said.