Inclusive elections: promoting youth political participation in Sierra Leone

On 7 March, over 3 million Sierra Leoneans will go to the polls to elect the President, Parliament and local councils. As part of a broader programme to make the electoral process more inclusive, WFD trained 35 Youth Peace Ambassadors to promote peaceful political participation.

Violence marred all previous elections, with young people often behind incidents due to high rates of unemployment and high levels of political misinformation and intolerance. This is why activities to support disengaged young people are at the heart of the WFD Sierra Leone Programme.

The WFD Sierra Leone programme for inclusive and peaceful elections

Ahead of the general election, WFD, in partnership with government, political parties and local civil society organisations, is implementing a comprehensive programme, as a member of the Standing Together for Democracy consortium, to engage youth, women and vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities, in the political process.

Activities included sessions to develop election manifestoes with representatives from 14 political parties, the launch of a National Agenda to involve people living with disabilities in the elections in partnership with the Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI) and a nationwide outreach tour in 9 districts to promote tolerance and educate about politics in partnership with Community Agenda.

Engaging young people

In December, WFD organised a two-day National Youth Conference in Freetown in partnership with the Network of Youth for Development Sierra Leone (NYDSL) and the National Youth Commission (NaYCom) and was attended by over 300 young people representing all 14 districts in Sierra Leone.

This conference trained youth leaders on dialogue, community engagement and politics. It brought together political parties, the Minister of Youth Affairs, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), the Sierra Leone Police and Office of the National Security to discuss the role and commitment of political parties and their leaders in ensuring peaceful elections.

The conference agreed violence-free elections and meaningful youth engagement are a shared responsibility of all: political parties, civil society as well as citizens. Political parties were invited to redouble efforts to conduct drug and violence free campaigns. A group of 35 Youth Peace Ambassadors was selected to reach out to local communities across the country and implement specific action plans.

Over 85% of Youth Peace Ambassadors have been able to take forward the training they received to concretely deliver action plans, as monitored and supported by the WFD programme. The work of young leaders has been integrated by local events involving young people, including a football match in Kabala, and media activity, including the participation in popular radio talk shows to further educate about peaceful political engagement.

In February, Youth Peace Ambassador Matthieu Conte, organised a regional youth non-violence and voters’ education training for 100 young people in Bo City, Sierra Leone. The event, part of Matthieu’s action plan to educate youth in his community, involved speakers from the police and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and an educational drama performance by Community Agenda.

At the end of the event participating young people made a personal pledge to promote peace and political tolerance in their communities ahead of next week’s election and beyond.

The Sierra Leone elections will take place on 7 March 2018. The WFD Sierra Leone programme will continue its work after the election with activities involving the new Parliament and Government.

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