Amplifying young people’s voices in Maldives
Beyond its pristine beaches and rich marine life, Maldives is a nation of young people with one third of its population below the age of 35. However, Maldives, like many other countries, faces the challenge of low youth representation in politics.
Only 5 of Maldives’ 86 MPs are below the age of 35, and Maldives ranks 42nd in the global ranking of parliaments with MPs under 30 and 37th for MPs under 40.
These figures indicate that the concerns and voices of young people often goes unheard in People’s Majlis - the parliament. Besides, a lack of policies, mechanisms, and advocacy efforts to involve young people in politics further exacerbates this problem.
WFD supports young people around the world to participate in political processes. In Maldives, WFD's Youth Legislative Agenda (YLA) project is identifying mechanisms and tools to help the People's Majlis amplify youth voices and participation and identifying young people’s concerns that demand attention from lawmakers.
The YLA has compiled young people’s concerns through a comprehensive process entailing desk research, individual consultations, and consultative workshops.
Based on the findings and international best practices, the YLA has proposed several ways for the parliament to engage young people, including:
1. Parliamentary Youth Standing Committee (YSC)
One of the key proposals is the establishment of a Parliamentary Youth Standing Committee (YSC). This committee would focus specifically on youth issues, providing a platform for young voices to be heard and their concerns addressed. By creating a dedicated space for youth representation, the YSC would ensure that the unique challenges and aspirations of young people are given due consideration in the legislative process.
2. Cross party youth caucus
The project recommends the establishment of a cross-party youth caucus within the People's Majlis for fostering connections and collaboration between civil society groups, local councils, and relevant organisations focused on youth-related matters. Furthermore, the caucus will also advocate for the integration of youth viewpoints and interests in the activities of the People’s Majlis and its committees.
3. Youth Parliament
Another proposed mechanism is the establishment of a Youth Parliament. This initiative aims to increase youth interest and engagement in the work of the People's Majlis, while also preparing potential future parliamentarians. By providing a simulated parliamentary experience, the Youth Parliament would empower young individuals to actively participate in the democratic process and contribute to policy-making.
4. Youth CSO network
To further amplify youth voices, the Youth Civil Society Organisation (CSO) network was proposed to facilitate dialogues and idea sharing on youth centric bills and bringing issues and concerns of youths to People’s Majlis.
5. A youth-focused, accountable, and responsive parliamentary culture
The YLA proposed trainings to address the current culture of cynicism towards youth, focusing on building the analytical capacity of parliamentarians, their knowledge on democratic values and expectations, and their understanding of youth related issues in Maldives.
6. Youth quota
Given the low youth representation in People’s Majlis, it was proposed that certain seats to be reserved for youth and women in the People’s Majlis
When it comes to young people’s concerns, the YLA project uncovered the following priorities:
Education, particularly taking steps to enhance the quality of education quality of higher education, addressing limited areas for higher education, and the challenges for students temporarily migrating to the capital city of Male for higher education purpose.
Employment, particularly addressing employment challenges faced by young people – including corruption and patronage, limited employment opportunities, pay gaps and inequality, and poor treatment of migrant workers.
Mental health, particularly addressing the lack of resources and services to address mental health issues in communities.
The document also identifies various other pressing youth issues, encompassing corruption, decentralisation, gender equality, human rights, environmental matters, and climate change.
WFD plans to facilitate the establishment a cross-party youth caucus to promote collaboration and advocacy, and the inception of a Youth Parliament to stimulate participation. WFD will also initiate a Youth CSO network to support youth centric issues, foster a more responsive parliamentary culture.