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Spiraling teenage pregnancies, failing businesses key issues raised at 4th Youth Parliament

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Speakers and clerks posed for a picture in the speakers lounge at parliament of Uganda

On the 17th of September, the fourth (4th) National Youth Parliament was convened by Faraja Africa Foundation, Action Aid Uganda, Platform for Youth Inclusion in Politics, and partners at the parliamentary chambers in Kampala Uganda. It brought together over 500 youth in leadership from all over the country. The National Youth Parliament is an invented civic safe space for political and legislative engagement of young men and women. Through creative advocacy, the national youth parliament is a vehicle that brings together youth in leadership from; the national youth council, the Uganda national students association, social entrepreneurs, civil society organizations, the private sector, and cultural institutions among others. Uganda has been a key stakeholder in ensuring that the young people’s issues are included in the National legislative agenda; although, in the 10th and 11th parliaments, it has been quite challenging to ensure community participation in passing various bills into law especially those related to young people. The National Youth Parliament, therefore, is key as it strongly contributes to the participation of such excluded community members.

The 4th National Youth Parliament Sitting was organized by Faraja Africa Foundation a youth organization that focuses on amplifying youth voices in key decision-making processes and champion the national youth parliament for the past 4 years. The main key funders for the youth parliament Faraja Africa Foundation has always convened have been the Action Aid Uganda and the European Union. Faraja Africa Foundation through the Platform for Youth Inclusion in Politics (PYIP) worked with local partners from across the regions of Uganda in the mobilization of over 900 young people in the youth parliament. PYIP is a loose coalition coordinated by Faraja Africa Foundation for democratic youth engagements in Uganda, under the accountability supervision of Action Aid Uganda, Restless Development and Westminster Foundation for Democracy; with partners such as the Rose Namayanja Foundation, Center for Policy Analysis, Advance Afrika, Open Space Uganda, RDP Uganda, National Youth Council, Uganda National Students Association, West Nile Youth Empowerment Center, Vision Actors International, African Youth Federation among others; the 4th sitting was held in the parliamentary chambers on 18th September 2021 under the theme “Youth at Crossroads: Quest for descent livelihood amidst the threat of Climate change and the COVID 19 Pandemic”. Over 900 voices of young leaders, professionals were raised to the Parliament of Uganda right from the regional level to the national level: leaving no voice unheard.

The 2021 National Youth Parliament was all-inclusive, as it started from the regional level covering Western, Northern, West Nile, Rwenzori, and Eastern Region, all the way to the national level. For each region, 20 young people attended physically and over 50 online. The climax was the National Youth Parliament sitting which convened 100 young people from across the country physically at a full-day event while over 412 attended the session digitally via zoom conferencing. The proceedings were also broadcasted live on NBS TV and on Faraja Television (a digital youth television that amplifies youth voices in Eastern and the rest of Africa).

The event commenced with young people holding a scientific election to elect the speaker of the 4th National Youth Parliament. The selection process saw three candidates: Hon. Ambasize Ezra, Hon. Howard Mwesigwa from the Western region and Hon. Olupot Calvin from the Eastern region. Hon. Ambasize Ezra emerging successful.

The opening ceremony was graced by the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah, the European Union Head of Governance Sector, Amb. Gonze Nicolas, Executive Director, Emmanuel Wabwire, Country Director Action Aid Uganda; Xavier Ejoyi, Ms Sylvia Pimer Youth Officer Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development, Hon. Okot Bonifance Northern Uganda Youth Member of Parliament and the Chairperson National Youth Council Hon. Jacob Eyeru.

It is very important that as the emerging leaders of this country, we start having conversions that are consistent with global interests and sustainable development not just for ourselves, but for generations we shall not see.” Jacob Eyeru, Chairperson Youth Council

Mr Emmanuel Wabwire also noted it’s key for Parliament to consider the issues raised by young people and treat the national youth parliament not just as an event but as a day of advocacy for young people. He further advocated the Rt. Hon Speaker Jacob Oulanyah that a motion is tabled on the floor of parliament in tackling the resolutions of the National Youth Parliament.

The young honourable members debated on issues that are pertinent to young people in Uganda summarized in the order paper. Issues identified in the regional Youth Parliaments and consultative engagements/dialogues fed into the motions moved at the National Youth Parliament in Uganda and consequently, the East African Youth Parliament Sitting in November 2021. These motions included; Motion for a resolution of the National Youth Parliament urging the government to address the spiraling teenage pregnancies and their implications on the girl child education and their social entrepreneurship, Motion for a resolution of the National Youth Parliament urging the government to urgently address the reproductive health challenges faced by young people amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Motion for a resolution of the National Youth Parliament urging the government to put in place post-Covid recovery measures for the economic transformation of young people including decent jobs, Motion for a resolution of the National Youth Parliament urging the government to urgently address issues affecting the youth in business and support them to recover from the crisis presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. Notable in attendance was the outgoing 2020 Youth Parliament Speaker, Hon. Abenawe Allan.

The chief guest and host, Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah the speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, opened and commissioned the National Youth Parliament as a special sitting of the Ugandan Parliament who encouraged the young people in attendance that the youth parliament is not for show, whatever will be discussed throughout the National Youth Parliament will not be vain but will rather find its way to the legislative arm of government either through committees or plenary and will be used to guide and advise the executive about the needs of the young people.

“While utilizing this platform, don’t just speak generically from statistics, I encourage you to speak from the heart. For example, while talking about teenage pregnancies, I want you to speak for the young girl in the village who is pregnant and cannot go back to school”- Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah speaker of the National Parliament of the Republic of Uganda.

The National Youth Parliament draws the attention of key decision-makers to issues apposite to young people’s livelihood, creates a safe space for young people and allows the aggregation of young voices to collectively push back against non-youth friendly reforms, across the country. Faraja Africa Foundation will continue to engage the young people from the grassroots and the stakeholders to ensure that there is follow up on the issues discussed. Faraja Africa Foundation (FAF) is a Ugandan-based nonprofit organisation founded in 2013. The organization’s goals are to “have economically empowered and socially engaged youth-led society with 21st-century skills. This mission is guided by a focus on educating, engaging and empowering youth with Digital Skills in Social Entrepreneurship Leadership & Civic Engagement for Sustainable Development in Uganda. Faraja Africa Foundation does work in policy advocacy, social entrepreneurs, and Leaders Fellowship for young apprentices.

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