Encouraging Youth to Vote, and For the Right Reasons
By Adrian Alfred
It is my belief that youth from across the globe can make a difference in all spheres of society; the voices of the youth must be heard since we are the future leaders. We have opinions and we want our voices to be heard. We sometimes believe that our voices don’t matter or that no one ever takes the time to listen to us. The world is rapidly changing and in order to create and implement policies and programmes geared towards youth, the youth themselves must play an active role in the decision-making process in order for their interests to be heard by policymakers.
An estimated half of the world’s population is youth; this speaks volumes. How can youth make a difference when we are often not taken seriously? An example of youth making a difference in the political sphere is the Guyana National Youth Council (GNYC) and their Vote Like a Boss campaign (VLaB) as they encouraged the youth and the general population at large to cast their votes at the country’s elections on May 11th, 2015. I worked along with some of the most extraordinary young people to help make Vote Like a Boss campaign a success. The GNYC’s slogan “Change begins with YOUth” was officially launched on September 30, 2013 in commemoration of Caribbean Youth Day. It is modeled after the structure of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council and the Commonwealth Youth Council and it aims to be the umbrella body for all youth and youth lead organizations in Guyana to have their voices heard.
The aim of the Vote Like a Boss campaign was to increase voter education among the Guyanese youth. The reasoning behind this initiative was based on collected experiences from two previous outreach campaigns: “The My Voice Matters” and “the Guyana I Want.” The conclusion was that youth in Guyana do not play a participatory role in the political process, a disheartening trend considering that over sixty percent of Guyana’s population, around 750,000 people, is youth. The VLaB campaign was executed in the form of civic education utilizing all forms of media, especially social media such as Facebook. Voter education workshops also played a role in the process.
The Vote Like a Boss campaign can be considered a success for the simple fact that we were able to engage youth in their comfort zone. I personally met several youth that had no intention of voting in the upcoming election but by the end of our conversations I got them to reconsider. Through our voter education workshops we broke down the electoral process into its simplest form so that the smallest child could understand, specifically focusing on what to expect when you enter the polling station and what is needed in order to vote. We also placed great emphasis on manifesto analysis because the Guyanese voting culture is known for generational voting, where there is a tendency to vote for a particular political party just because it’s the party that the voter’s parents or grandparents vote for, influencing their decision. However, Vote Like a Boss wanted to cultivate a culture where youth voted from an informed position based on polices, position and their interests.
The true success of the VLaB campaign could be seen on Election Day May 11th, 2015 where young and old voters came out of polling stations and stated that they just “voted like a boss.” Social media profile photos of young people depicted the VLaB logo, with statuses encouraging other young people to go out and vote. The icing on the cake was after the tabulation of votes; officially making it the largest percentage of voter turnout in Guyana’s history.
The task of promoting the youth vote was not an easy one and the VLaB campaign faced many criticisms. The government of the day stated that the GNYC was politically motivated. This, however, did not deter us from executing the task at hand; instead we rose above the challenges. Our voices were finally being heard and taken seriously. This is the power that a collective body of motivated youths has.
About the Author:
Adrian Alfred is a youth advocate for youth empowerment, a field which he gained greater appreciation for through his study of International Relations and from growing up in the community of Buxton-Friendship, Guyana. Adrian is a Founding and Steering Committee member of the Guyana National Youth Council (GNYC), a non-governmental youth lead organization which is a network of youth and youth-led body committed to youth advocacy.
The Building Bridges team arrived in Cape Town, South Africa on 12 August 2015. Their arrival coincided with International Youth Day and was celebrated by representatives from various youth organizations, UN Women and the Dutch Embassy. The next step will be to present the outcomes of the project at the Sustainable Development Goals Summit at the end of September2015. Follow Dutch Youth Delegate to the UN, Jilt van Schayik, and Teun Meulepas as they continue to connect with young people from all walks of life.
Members of the Inter-agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) came together on 12 August 2015 to commemorate International Youth Day under the theme Youth Civic Engagement. The event was organized by UNDESA and UNDP, with the support of the Inter-agency Network on Youth Development, and consisted of two inter-active panels. The discussion panels showcased inspiring ways in which young people engage in civic and political spheres, either at the local, national or global level. The event brought together young people, youth organizations, Member State representatives, civil society, media and United Nations entities to discuss the issue of youth civic engagement, in particular looking at new and emerging issues and approaches to social and political engagement in different parts of the world.
UN Entities Highlighted News
ILO: Investing in youth and ensuring decent jobs to harness the demographic dividend (Addis Ababa, 15 July 2015)
On the occasion of the first-ever World Youth Skills Day, a joint side event of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development was convened by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and co-organized in partnership with ILO and UNESCO to raise awareness on the importance of ensuring adequate investments in youth, highlight good practices and lessons learned on effective approaches to skills development and discuss practical ways in which the international community can work in partnership with Member States. More
ILO: What works for youth employment? Innovative experiences in the transition to formality (Lima, 22-24 April 2015)
The mutual learning workshop “What works for youth employment? Innovative experiences in the transition to formality,” was part of the activities planned to support the implementation of the Resolution of the 101st Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC), “The Youth Employment Crisis: A Call for Action.” The regional workshop forms part of the “Transition to formality” work area. This area works to strengthen constituents’ knowledge and capacities concerning effective policies that include innovative features to increase their impact on youth. More
#DrawDisability campaign: vote for your favorite drawing by 30 September!
Led by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), the #DrawDisability campaign invited children, young people and schools to reflect on disability and raise awareness of the issues people with disability face in terms of access to, and the quality of education. Almost 3,000 drawings were received from 50 countries and you can now vote online for your favorite drawing. The final exhibition will be at the United Nations in New York on 3 December 2015. More
UNESCO: School's Newsletters for a culture of peace
The project aims at educating young people in the ideals and practice of a culture of peace and non-violence through the preparation and distribution of school newsletters which content educates for peace, human rights and citizenship. It is implemented in the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) in Cuba and in the Dominican Republic, in collaboration with the UNESCO´s National Commissions, the ministries of education, journalist associations as well as teachers and journalists training institutions of both Member States. More
Global Dialogues: Young Entrepreneurs as Drivers of Sustainable Growth
UNEP: What does ice cream have to do with climate change?
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) teamed up with Ben & Jerry’s “Save Our Swirled” tour to offer free scoops of ice cream to local climate advocates in Washington, D.C. The ice cream was served from a converted 100% electric Tesla delivery car at the UNEP Regional Office for North America and attracted a crowd of over 700 people in just one hour. The tour is travelling across the U.S. to mobilize citizens to call on global leaders to tackle climate change.
Watch what happens when ice cream is 2°C warmer than it should be. A 2°C warming of our planet would have an equally dramatic impact.
Youth SWAP set to address youth priorities in Zambia
The Zambia UN Youth SWAP (System-wide Actiona Plan on Youth) has scored remarkable progress since its revival in February 2015. Twelve UN agencies, government and youth representatives are on board and have developed a roadmap and work plan which is operationalized and currently in implementation. Zambia, in addition to seven other UN Country Teams, participated last month in the first pilot of the SWAP survey on Employment and Entrepreneurship. Additionally, a UN–Youth partnership platform has been established to provide wider scale engagement space for the youth and the UN agencies to ensure that youth priorities are constantly captured and addressed in programme implementation.
UNDP Kosovo: Engaging youth in Kosovo through Co-Design
The United Nations Kosovo Team is exploring new ways of programme design and implementation by directly engaging the youth of Kosovo, through collaborative design, and in finding new ways to identify and solve issues of concern. The pilot project Co-design with Youth in Kosovo, is the first step towards the creation of the Joint Youth and Adolescent Programme (JYAP), a UN programme co-led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme. More
UNFPA Palestine: Young Palestinian and his team win first prize competition for designing mobile application
During the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Design Challenge and Hackathon meeting in Kampala, Uganda, 80 participants representing 7 teams competed to design a mobile application. The winning team, called “Put it On”, consisted of participants from Palestine (represented by Ali Qurei), Uganda, Moldova, Turkey, Canada, Korea, and Macedonia. “The application, TriGivia (which stands for 3G – Tri, Giving – Givia), will help youth have access to information on sexual and reproductive health issues and falsify myths of information on gender”, said Ali Qurei. More
In 2013, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), established Democracy Clubs across schools in the country to help youth learn the principles and practices of electoral democracy. The Bhutan Children’s Parliament, developed by ECB in collaboration with the National Assembly of Bhutan, has been established to take the clubs further by offering children the opportunity to develop leadership skills, voice their ideas, thoughts and feelings. The launch of the Constitution for the Bhutan Children’s Parliamnet was supported by UNDP Bhutan and the Swiss Development Cooperation through UNICEF Bhutan. More
ILO: Skills for Sustainable Development: Connecting Youth to Labour Market (Video)
On the first-ever commemoration of World Youth Skills Day, Aeneas Chapinga Chuma, ILO Assistant-Director-General and Regional Director for Africa talks in this video about how to provide skills that will enable young people to get productive employment in a changing world of work.
Ahead of the 13-16 July Financing for Development Conference in Addis-Ababa, Stephen Pursey, Director of the ILO Multilateral Cooperation Department talked about the challenge of high-levels of youth employment and how it can be tackled. More
PLURAL+ 2015 Bringing Global Dialogue on Youth Issues to Forefront
The 2015 PLURAL+ International Youth Video Festival, a partner initiative by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), has sent its top-scoring pre-selected videos to the international jury for final judging and selection. Created by youth and covering issues of migration, diversity and inclusion, the 2015 submissions continue to raise the bar and contribute to international conversations on youth issues and opportunities. The three winners, selected by the international jury, will be flown to New York City for the PLURAL+ Awards Ceremony held at the Paley Center for Media on December 3rd.
UNDP Asia and the Pacific: #PurpleMySchool
The #PurpleMySchool online campaign, launched in June 2015 by UNDP, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and ‘Being LGBT in Asia’, aims to promote safe spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) students in Asia-Pacific schools by calling for supporters – peers, parents, teachers or schools – to show solidarity through images that feature the color purple prominently via clothing, drawings or purple creations. The campaign is supported by the Government of the Netherlands, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Development Mission Asia.
UN MGCY Hosts Side Event at Third International Conference on Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa
The United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) members hosted a side event in Addis Ababa on the 15 July 2015 on ‘Youth Priorities for a Sustainable FfD Framework’. It was attended by over 50 participants and set up as an open discussion. The content and discussion emphasized the weak environmental dimension, structural issues and funding of youth policies in the context of the three dimensions of sustainable development. The event was also attended by the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. More
UNESCO: Reaching millions of young people in Eastern and Southern African with comprehensive sexuality education
In June 2015, UNESCO, with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), met partners and stakeholders to review the second year of progress in an eight-country initiative focused on building political commitment, strengthening the quality and implementation of sexuality education curricula and improving community engagement in young people’s access to sexuality education and health services. So far, the project has trained over 90,000 teachers in sexuality education and reached almost 2.4 million learners across the region. More
UNDP Pakistan: Consultation with Youth-Led Organizations and the Donor Community
For Pakistan’s National Human Development Report 2015, UNDP organized a national consultation with youth-led organizations and the donor community across Pakistan in July. It was envisioned as an opportunity to draw together these key partners, seek insights from their experiences and hear the voices of the youth. Three highly interactive discussions were held on crucial youth empowerment issues: education, employment and engagement. The consensus reached was that “youth is not a problem to be solved but a potential to be realized”.
The countdown has begun to the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum!
Over 500 young women and men from all over the world will be coming together on the 26-28 October 2015 for the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum – Young Global Citizens for a Sustainable Planet.
The Forum is a vital opportunity for young people to ensure their voices get heard. This year’s themes will focus on the timely issues of sustainable development and climate change.
For more information about the Forum, as well as information on how to get involved, click here.
UNESCO: Voices of the Athletes Educators ready for Champion training
In July, 2015, UNESCO hosted a workshop to train youth to become an Educator who will train Champions (young athletes and actors) of the Voices of the Athletes (VoA) Outreach Program. As a result, five youth (three females and two males) have been equipped with better facilitation skills to deliver training for young athletes and actors. The Champions (trained young athletes and actors) will visit secondary schools to advocate for HIV/AIDS and sexualy transmitted infections (STIs) prevention, environmental protection, anti-doping, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and leadership. The Champions are also engaged in the upcoming Commonwealth Youth Game to be held in Samoa on 5-11 September 2015. More
UNESCO: Youth and the Internet: Fighting Radicalization and Extremism
UNESCO organized a conference on “Youth and the Internet: Fighting Radicalization and Extremism” in June 2015, in Paris. Participants acknowledged the internet as a crucial tool for youth to create networks for sharing knowledge and ideas, develop businesses, spread messages of freedom and democracy. In some instances, the internet was also a cause for concern. The major reasons for these concerns in internet use were outlined as lack of education on the proper use of the internet, unemployment, and the lack of involvement of youth in policy making. In conclusion, they underscored the importance of involving African youth as partners in addressing the issue. More
Youth in Action
Be The Change Academy Program: Empowering Young Women in Liberia to Improve their Livelihoods through Enterprise and Jobs Creation
On 18 July 2015, Youth Crime Watch of Liberia (YCWL) graduated over 200 trainees, predominately young women and girls, from its Be The Change Academy (BTCA) Program. The graduates completed the ten week Business and Entrepreneurship Training in Paynesville, Liberia. Since the BTCA program launched in 2013, it has received over 1,500 applicants, admitted 500 trainees and provided loans to 55 young people who presented business plans. More
#ShowYourSkillsCampaign Photo Contest to win an all-expense paid trip to Cape Town, South Africa
Afterschool Centre for Career Development is pleased to announce the launch of its #ShowYourSkillsCampaign organized as part of its activities to celebrate and promote the inaugural United Nations World Youth Skills Day held on 15 July 2015. The #ShowYourSkillsCampaign seeks to generate greater awareness on the relevance of skills development comprising core skills, technical and vocational skills as well as highlight the place of skills acquisition in driving employability and entrepreneurship. The deadline is 30 August 2015. For more information on how to participate/prizes, visit here.
Youth Revolution Clan: Youth Engagement In Sustainable Development
A training on youth engagement in sustainable development was held in July 2015 in Lahore, Pakistan . The seventeen suggested Sustainable Development Goals were presented with a brief description. Participants discussed how sustainable development is important to the 1.3 billion youth of the world, especially to the 87% (1 billion) that are from developing countries. Youth Revolution Clan is applying innovative approaches to economic growth by using interconnected networks. Training was facilitated by Mr. Rizwan Anwar, Global Youth Advocate United Nations.
Balkan action/2015 Youth Academy (#BA2015YA)
In Struga, Macedonia, from 1-4 August 2015, 30 youth from 27 organizations from Serbia, Macedonia and Albania took part in the Balkan action/2015 Youth Academy (#BA2015YA). The role of the #BA2015YA was to build capacities on Sustainbale Development Goals (SDGs), to motivate and engage young multipliers from the Balkans in the action/2015 and to mobilize communities on SDGs. #BA2015YA resulted in the Balkan action/2015 Youth Declaration on SDGs and the action plan for the national and regional SDGs’ mobilization. More
International Youth Day Workshop for underprivileged youth
Green Hope, a youth organization that empowers, educates and engages the future generations, celebrated International Youth Day by conducting an environment workshop in Dubai for underprivileged young people building on the theme of "Youth Civic Engagement". This workshop was conducted by young people for young people and highlighted sustainable consumption as its core message to ensure a life of dignity for all. Adapting to a sustainable lifestyle would ensure social equity and well-being for all and would remove economic disparity. More
UNCTAD promotes youth entrepreneurship and economic empowerment
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) works to address the challenges facing young people. UNCTAD’s Policy Guide on Youth Entrepreneurship aims to support policymakers in developing countries and in transition economies to design policies and progarmmes, and to establish institutions that will promote youth entrepreneurship, providing the foundation for job creation through the development, expansion end growth of youth-led enterprises. Fulfilling the development needs and rights of youth is UNCTAD’s priority area of work.
UN MGCY: Youth-led Journal Publication on Youth Participation in the SFDRR and WCDRR
UN MGCY Submits Official Response to the Habitat III Issue Papers
The Habitat III process is in full swing as Major Groups submitted responses to the issue papers published by the Habitat III Secretariat. The UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) has facilitated several offline open-ended and online consultations. These were used to submit the official response to the all the papers of all issue areas. In addition, UN MGCY presented its governance structures and Habitat III working group annual report at the last civil society meeting in New York. Click here for link to papers.
UN MGCY Contributions to World Humanitarian Summit
The World Humanitarian Summit is in full swing as stakeholders submitted position papers to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) has facilitated over 50 offline open-ended consultations and received more than 1,000 online responses to compile one overarching and four thematic papers on areas of the process. These findings were also presented at the official regional consultation of South and Central Asia. In addition, UN MGCY participated in the Under-Secretary-General briefing on the World Humanitarian Summit on 31 July 2015. Click here for link to papers.