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Youth petition influences parliamentary agenda in Uganda

October 31st, 2018

WFD-Uganda partnered with the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs (UPFYA), Uganda Youth Network, Restless Development, Faraja Africa, ActionAid and Plan Uganda to convene the first ever “Youth Moot Parliamentary Session” in August.

Over 300 young people from across Uganda debated important issues affecting their lives and submitted the top priorities in a petition to the Speaker of Parliament. This led to parliamentary activity on the Sexual Offences Bill being accelerated to early November as well as positive change to the mobile money tax – both issues which disproportionately impact on young people in Uganda.

The top four issues included in the petition were:

Sexual Violence

Delays in the passage of the Sexual Offences Bill, first introduced to Parliament in 2016, to consolidate all laws relating to sexual offenses,  com­bat sex­ual vi­o­lence and set out pun­ish­ment of sex­ual of­fend­ers was a primary concern raised by participants in the parliamentary session. 

Young women and men are particularly vulnerable when it comes to sexual violence in Uganda. Over 80% of young women and 30% of young men have experienced some form of sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.

Digital access

On 30 May, the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill 2018 was introduced. While increased taxation can contribute to important services, the direct tax on social media use and mobile money transactions which arose from the passage of the bill has an unfair impact on young people.

Mobile money transactions are particularly important to Uganda’s large informal business sector as instead of paying with cash or credit cards, consumers can use mobile phones to pay for a wide range of services. The imposition of direct taxes on mobile money transactions has significantly impacted businesses run by young people.

The social media tax has particularly affected young people’s access to information since the majority cannot afford to incur these additional charges. Access to social media is especially important for young people who use it to express themselves and engage in conversations about politics and economic development in Uganda.

Cost of politics

Young peoples’ ability to run for parliamentary office is influenced significantly by the exorbitant nomination fees outlined in the 2015 Parliamentary Elections Amendment. WFD’s research into the cost of politics, including a case study on the situation in Uganda, outlines the disproportionate effect the increasing cost of politics has on marginalised groups, particularly young women.

Financial support for start-up businesses

Over 60 percent of young people in Uganda are unemployed which presents a critical policy challenge. Young people can become job creators through entrepreneurship. The Youth Petition called for legislation to be put in place to help young people access appropriate financing and tax breaks for start-up businesses owned by young people in Uganda.

How did parliament respond?

The petition was presented to the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda on 10 August 2018 who committed on behalf of the Parliament to prioritise the passage of pending bills which were highlighted in the Youth Petition. As a result, the Sexual Offences Bill was fast tracked and will be on the order of business in the first session of the next sitting of parliament from 5 November.

WFD also worked with UPFYA, the Uganda Youth Network, Restless Development; Faraja Africa and ActionAid to develop a strategy to encourage MPs to engage with the government to revise the social media and mobile money taxes. Young MPs and members of UPFYA committed to follow up on the petition by meeting the President, the Speaker of Parliament and relevant ministers and led to the tax being reduced from 1% to 0.5% as young MPs and those sympathetic to youth interests were mobilised to vote against the implementation of the mobile money tax.

The positive response to the Youth Petition has encouraged further engagement between WFD-Uganda’s local partner, UPFYA and the Speaker of Parliament, members of the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the passage of legislation that improves young people’s lives. Youth leaders have also gained confidence when engaging the government to demand for responsive national legislation.

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