The 2016 National Youth Policy of Uganda acknowledged the need for policies that empower young people to participate effectively in the national development agenda of the country. Despite this, the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of these youth-focused policies has barely involved young people. Many decision makers still believe that political participation is solely for men, not youth and women; hence the legislative gap between the community and the Parliament. Uganda faces challenges in addressing social and ethnic inequalities, as well as the commercialisation of policy development processes within its political system. The COVID-19 situation has further restricted young people’s engagement in Uganda’s political and legislative processes. The Faraja Africa Foundation (FAF) is seeking to address the problem of a shrinking political landscape in Uganda, one which limits youth and community civic engagement.
The FAF CYIPEL project was created to reinforce the key role of young people in building sustainable policies and their implementation. Through the Civil Society Support Programme (CUSP), supported by the European Union and Germany, CYIPEL has built on the previous work of FAF in advocacy to push further for increased participation for young people in important decision-making processes. Within these shared spaces, change was clearly visible; young people built connections, they shared and gained knowledge, turned ideas into action and developed strategies to be deployed in the country’s development and policy making process.Nine safe and inclusive youth spaces (platforms) – both physical and online – were created and hosted nationwide to amplify the voices of diverse youth to the authorities. Over 612 young people took part, including leaders of the National Youth Councils, the Student Guild Councils, the National Students Council and the District Youth and Local Councils from the four regions of Uganda. In addition, a collective of a further 100 youth leaders – representing all seven East African Community partner states – took part in the activities resulting from the National Youth Parliament (the East African Youth Parliament) in Arusha, Tanzania. This amplification of young people’s voices not only dominated discussions on the floor of the 11th National Parliament of Uganda, it also sparked serious debates on topical, youth-focused issues both on social media and on Faraja Television.
Together with national leaders in youth empowerment, CYIPEL has increased youth understanding, capacity and skills in creating, interpreting and advocating for policies. It also improved collaboration with authorities, key decision makers and youth workers for creating safe spaces (platforms). This helped allow young people to debate critical issues around national development planning, its implementation, and budgeting processes for national transformation, prosperity and sustainable peace. The quality of youth engagement in key decision-making processes in Parliament improved, alongside the government’s responsiveness on democratic and governance issues. In addition, the project led to more young people using digital platforms to drive awareness and advocacy around the country’s policy and budget framework processes. FAF also partnered with the 11th National Parliament of Uganda to ensure youth involvement in policy formulation for the national budgeting framework and other legislative processes. This led to effective, bottom-up implementation processes that helped deliver the National Development Plan III through inclusive youth parliamentary and digital engagements. National leaders also took action, with the Speaker of Uganda’s 11th National Parliament calling an official sitting of Parliament in order to have all 500 members discuss the resolutions of the 5th National Youth Parliament one week after the event took place. At the same sitting, the Minister in charge of Uganda’s Youth was directed to address the resolutions. As a result, the National Parliament, alongside other CSO partners, supported those young people involved in CYIPEL action in further debating – at a sub-regional level – in the East African Legislative Assembly. The resolutions raised in the Assembly have now been tabled at the Council of Ministers in the East African Community. In the next phase of engagement, FAF will follow up on the issues and further reinforce the youth spaces to allow them to deliver greater impact.