Sensitizing Zambian Youths on Democratic Participation
Sports are indisputably the most popular leisure activities among youths in Zambia. In the lead-up to the 2011 elections, UNDP supported the capacity development of national institutions including civil society organizations to strengthen a political process aimed specifically at young people. An important step in this direction was a project to enhance young people’s participation in democratic and electoral processes through sports which was implemented in support of the electoral process in Zambia. These activities have enabled young people to become familiar with the issues at stake and their civic responsibilities.
The youth in Zambia constitute approximately 60% of the total population and in recent years, some have faced high unemployment rates, HIV/AIDS infection rates amongst other developmental drawbacks. However, they represent a pool of resource for the country’s future development.
With Support from UNDP, 148 coaches, young leaders and volunteers from selected youth groups, women NGOs, and sports organizations conducted voter and general civic education in their communities using sports-related activities as an integral part of the process. The volunteers were taught how to encourage other young people to stay away from violence. The idea was to provide youths the tools to improve their participation in democracy, governance and peaceful elections in Zambia.
Even though the elections have come and gone, these volunteers are currently still engaged with community members in meaningful ways, ensuring that civic education are necessary to ensure citizens, mainly young people understand their rights, be better prepared and become enlightened and responsible active citizens. The volunteers are busy providing community dwellers with information and skills to promote peaceful participation in governance.
In addition to using sporting activities to boost the educational efforts, the volunteers used face-to-face interaction and visual aids, such as civic education flipcharts and handbooks to enhance an adequate understanding and retention of the information.
A couple of youth shared stories of how the awareness sessions influenced their outlooks and how they are using the knowledge gained to sensitize other young people, particularly getting their voice across to political and community leaders on issues affecting them in a constructive way.
“I have reflected on the types of violence that I used to involve myself in when I was a youth and it brings painful memories. I now appreciate this knowledge gained on violence and its negative effects and I am ready to share the knowledge with people from my community,” says a youth who benefitted from the civic education initiative.
According to a community leader, “modern democracy is based on the principle of participation. Young people can make their voices heard and become drivers of positive change only if they take an active part in issues that affect them.” He applauded the organizers for creating awareness about citizens’ participation in all aspects of democracy. He hopes that the initiative would be a continual process which is not tied only to the electoral period.
At the end of the project, it is expected that youths who live in these communities would have become increasingly informed on electoral processes and democratic governance as a whole. It is also hoped that youth NGO structures would have integrated democratic principles in their governing of institutions.