YOUth REkindled Advocacy and Participatory engagement (YOUREAP)

“No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.”

– Kofi Annan

Nigeria’s robust youth environment and increasing youth population makes her one of the most youthful populations in the world. With over 60% of the country voting population dominated by young eligible voters, youths constitute the largest percentage of registered voters. The National Youth Policy defines youth as all young persons of ages 18 – 35. Nigeria’s burgeoning youth population provides a huge social, economic and political capital required to drive socio-political and economic development.

Political participation by youth has emerged in recent years as a crucial new focus of efforts to enhance democracy. Youth political participation in governance and decision making processes is a clear indicator of a country’s democratic development. Democracy thrives on the ability of citizens to enforce their rights by participating in decision making; youth must be given the opportunity to contribute to the development of their communities through effective engagement of elected leaders, which will usher in transparency in governance and core dividends of democracy.

Nigeria’s greatest asset lies in its youthful demography, yet, there have been little or no gains towards furthering the youth agenda and harnessing the energy, resilience and commitment of Nigeria’s youth. Presently, the Nigerian youth are becoming increasingly active in their communities and are working together to address challenges and find solutions to long-standing problems. They can be a creative force, a dynamic source of innovations, and they have undoubtedly, throughout history, participated, contributed, and even catalyzed important changes in political systems, power-sharing dynamics and economic opportunities.

Engaging young people in democratic governance process is critical to ensuring that the gains of youth political participation in the 2015 general election are not lost in the post-election phase. Young people must organize and hold elected leaders accountable to their campaign promises, as well as effectively engage elected leaders to be responsive and take action on behalf of citizens. Political participation must be meaningful if youth participation must be sustained within the electoral cycle of a political system. Political participation become more meaningful when youths are able to express their preferences, aggregate their interests, and influence public officials and public policy, using avenues and opportunities in the political system towards helping to maintain government accountability and demanding government transparency and responsiveness. Although the youth constitute not less than 60% of Nigeria’s population, Nigerian youth’s participation in democratic and governance processes is discouragingly low. Even though the youth, who are the backbone of the country, should play the most active role in this process, unfortunately, their participation is reduced to being used as tools for election violence, by politicians in the country.

AfriGrowth Foundation, via its youth mentorship programs, has initiated a platform to reposition the Nigerian youth to take their place as national assets, rather than liabilities. On this background, the Organization seeks to empower the youth to be able to participate actively and positively in democratic process, specifically in the engagement of elected officials on issues that center on the Nigerian electorate, most especially after elections.

At the heart of this proposed project is the belief that elected office holders will make better decisions and have greater positive impact on their communities/constituencies when there’s an increase in the frequency, diversity, and level of engagement by youth. Significant gaps and barriers exist to effective citizen engagement. In many rural communities across Nigeria, most youth do not participate in the decisions that affect their daily lives, and there is often a lack of trust between constituents and elected officials. A crucial bridge over this gap is the use of appropriate strategies and tools to encourage youth and elected officials to interact regularly, increase their knowledge of each other, and develop trust.

AfriGrowth Foundation has designed the Youth Rekindled Advocacy and Participatory Engagement (YOUREAP), as a signature program, which will enlighten, educate and train youth on the most effective tools and strategies that can be used to effectively engage elected officials at all levels of government. This project will provide youth with the requisite skills and knowledge in civic participation in order to engage elected officials more commendably.

To support implementation of key democratic processes in Nigeria, REAP will increase the capacity of youth across the country to be more involved in democratic reform processes. By fostering an environment of engagement and advocacy, the program will assist Nigerian youth entrench accountability and transparency in public service. The Project will equally improve youth participation and emphasize the importance of leadership and innovation.

PROJECT JUSTIFICATION

Creating safe democratic practices and productive engagement mechanisms and structures have been crucial in enabling citizens and communities to pursue people-sensitive transformation. Any country with so large a young population that participate actively in engagement of elected leaders is likely to find mass political solidarity and support for its development. This project will produce a new crop of youth, fully equipped and empowered to effectively engage elected officials. This engagement is most paramount, as it will positively reflect on the inputs of youth on issues that affect them or the society at large and equally usher an era of accountability and transparency, which will foster trust between elected officials and the electorate in Nigeria.