The training of trainers on youth participation in electoral processes in Gambia is particularly timely, following the just concluded voters’ registration exercise in readiness for the presidential election scheduled for December 2021, to be followed by the National Assembly elections in 2022. To harness the tremendous roles Gambian youth are to play throughout the electoral cycle, as voters, candidates, and electoral officials, the electoral system needs to work in capacitating and attracting the younger cohorts’ attention, through an effective civic engagement process. Supported with the proper tools such as education and access to credible and requisite information, the youth are able to exploit their potential and meaningfully participate in the socio-political national discourse.
H.E. Bakary Badjie, Gambia’s Minister of Youth and Sports put emphasis on the critical role youth play in the electoral process of the country, with the National Youth Council as a satellite institution under the Ministry of Youth and Sports, mandated to ensure youth are empowered through capacity building training and other activities that place them in a better position to engage political parties and other stakeholders in elections.
At the opening of the training programme, the Minister observed that “the Government of H. E. President Adama Barrow recognizes the crucial role young people can play in our political process if provided the safe space. It is against this backdrop that he appointed, nominated or endorsed the appointment of several competent young people serving in different capacities within the governance system of The Gambia. The President is a strong believer in the adage; anything for the Youth, without the Youth is not for the Youth. It is our belief that from here, that many youths will be able to participate in the electoral process beyond voting, and becoming candidates.”
The development of the Training of Trainers programme began in August 2019 after the AGA Secretariat, under the auspices of the Youth Engagement Strategy (YES), conducted an assessment mission to the Republic of The Gambia, to establish the state of youth participation in electoral and political processes. The mission identified, among other things, the need for increased investments on capacities of youth through targeted training programmes. The report also formed the basis for an AGA-Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS) joint action plan, focusing on enhancing capacities of youth.
The five-day training programme aims to not only empower youth, but encourage them to engage meaningfully in the electoral cycle of The Gambia, and to leave a positive mark while shaping the democracy and governance arena. The programme, conducted in collaboration with Gambia’s Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS), is part of the implementation of AGA-MOYS action plan aimed at collating commitments and support from the African Union, AGA, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as different development partners, towards enhanced support for youth participation and engagement initiatives. The action plan addresses the gaps in capacity building of youth in electoral processes as a key area of intervention.
In defining an inclusive and credible electoral process and leveraging youth agency, the African Union has established norms and standards such as the African Charter on Democracy and Governance (ACDEG), which obliges State Parties to ensure effective participation of citizens in democratic and development processes for a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa. Amb Salah Hammad, the Acting Head of the AGA-APSA Secretariat, notes that building youth capacity requires a comprehensive package of resources that can serve as a core manuscript that can enable youth to have an understanding of their countries’ electoral cycle, mapping barriers and creating innovative ways to participate in the electoral and political processes. “Our intervention therefore addresses the key impediments to citizens’ participation and most importantly, supporting the youth as stipulated in Agenda 2063. The rationale for the focus on youth is simple, youth are the majority, and youth are a diverse group of men-women with different social, educational and economic status mirroring society”, he stated.
The Gambian government has put in place requisite normative, policy and institutional arrangements to support meaningful youth participation in its political processes. Nonetheless, there are capacity and resource challenges limiting its delivery. The ongoing efforts at reforms signify a great opportunity for young people to ensure that structural and institutional impediments, which have curtailed youth development in the country, is addressed. It remains important to underline the need for regional, continental and international partnerships to support the various innovative ideas enshrined in Gambia’s National Development Plan. This will go a long way in addressing various fundamental challenges and unlock the transformational abilities of Gambia’s young people for progress.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union (AU).
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