The concept of youth in development and civic affairs is variously viewed with mixed feelings across the country’s social strata; a section of society connotes youth to laziness and irresponsibility with little or no significant world view. The relationship between youth and elders in Uganda has been traditionally defined on the principles of age and generation sets that influence the level of youth participation in civic and development affairs. This social construction has for many years hindered an active role of youth and influence of development policy outcomes, including those that directly affect them.
However, in the recent past, there have been efforts by government and development partners to enhance the capabilities of youth to engage in the mainstream and directly contribute to development and governance.
These efforts have enhanced the self-esteem of youth and elevated their status as stakeholders who see themselves as contributors to development in society.
The Youth4Policy fellowship, an initiative of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, is one of the recent initiatives to drive the inherent potential of youth and to mainstream their active contribution to public policy. As one of the participants, the programme is empowering me to appreciate the country’s public policy process through a prestigious fellowship that selected only eight young professionals from a pool of hundreds of applicants. The programme has given me an opportunity to explore my research and analysis potential through policy discussions, policy learning missions, expert learning and peer-to-peer learning.
While on the policy learning mission in Kabarole, I received an opportunity to learn and appreciate how local governments operate. We interacted with district officials for a deeper insight into their operation, how they relate with citizens and mobilize resources locally. From the discussions, I realised how the district (Kabarole) struggles to raise local revenue yet on the contrary, residents make a fortune from peasant agriculture. This prompted me to research on how local governments can raise local revenue through tapping into the large informal sector.
Therefore, through continued learning, research and participation by youth, capacity will be built, and this will provide an opportunity for them to grow and shine especially in policy areas since there will be evidence and enough knowledge to defend their arguments.
With no doubt, the Youth4Policy programme will give me the knowledge, skills and networks to play an important role in generating novel ideas for development and consequently demystify the notion that youth are lazy and irresponsible when it comes to national development.
Written by Brenda Mukyala
Youth4Policy Fellow, 2019