Our youth lack a culture of participating in governance

We have a defeatist attitude that believes our votes do not count

In Summary

• We have a long way to go in terms of increasing youthful participation in governance

• We can achieve a lot, especially in government, if we exploit power within ourselves 


Every time I sit down with family, friends, neighbours and even my colleagues and engage in talks that involve anything governmental, the first thing that always bothers me is the level of youth participation. 

For a country that has a large youthful population that is present and vocal in so many fields and ways, we seem to be very much absent when it comes to things governmental. 

Generally, our youthful participation culture is lacking in so many ways.  

I recently sat through a discussion with colleagues where we were talking about this new age of the digital era and what topics like AI mean to us.  

The discussion gradually moved into the role young people play when it comes to things to do with formulating policy and regulation as well as representation of the youth in government and such.  

“For our youth, someone once told me that it is either you are on the table or you are on the menu,” one guy said.  

I didn’t fully understand what he was alluding to, but I guess I kind of got what he was getting at with his statement.  

This got me thinking of why young people sometimes brush off and throw banter around conversations that involve participation especially in government.  

In my many interactions, I often hear things like gatekeeping by some who are already there. You need to know someone who knows someone so you can sit in those decision-making tables, and even if I voice my opinion, a decision has already been made. These are some of the excuses we avoid being there.  

Other reasons include the lack of adequate information, ineffective communication strategies and even basic civic education that informs decision-making.  

I remember some time back when I was having a lunch date with some close friends, one of them asked why youths don’t vote. 

That evening, I approached a neighbour who I recall declined to go exercise her constitutional right and make her vote count. I asked her the same question, and the response she gave me?  

“They already know who the winner of the election is. I do not need to wake up in the cold, early morning, go queue and vote if I would be forced to think that my vote wouldn’t count at all,” she said.  

“Why do you think your vote wouldn’t count?” I asked her.  

“Nothing would have changed. The votes would still have been rigged by whoever wanted to be in power,” she said. 

I differed with her on this, and felt like with a little bit of mentality change, a lot can happen.  

We hold a lot of power within ourselves, and if we effectively exploit it in a good way, we can achieve a lot, especially in government.  

We still have a long way to go in terms of increasing the level of our youthful participation in matters that deal with anything governmental.

We also need to support each other so that we grow stronger. If we criticise that one person who voices their opinion on an issue that directly affects young people, instead of rallying behind them for a good cause, we are also losing out on a lot. 

Equally, the government needs to be deliberate and very intentional in creating more and more seats and room to accommodate youthful participation, especially in decision-making processes.

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