Teens tell their leaders: Consider us as equal citizens!
by Richard Kaye and Joanna Namirimu, Linking and Learning Facilitators, Voice in Uganda
SORAK Development Agency is a grantee partner under the Influencing Grant, currently implementing a project titled ‘“Teens Up Now”. The project seeks to lift the power of teens through participatory approaches by influencing leaders to consider teens as equal citizens in policy and practice. Richard and Joanna participated in the District Leaders and Youth Engagement Day and would like to share their experiences and insights.
On the 30th of March, 2023, SORAK convened a District Leaders and Youth Engagement Day which also served as the climax of the Youth Inter-Subcounty Music, Dance and Drama (MDD) competition (i.e. dance and mime, drama skits and silent theatre). The event was animated by four winning youth groups from the sub-counties of Kigando, Kibalinga, Nabingola and Bageza who competed for a top prize of one million Uganda shillings. The event was attended by different duty bearers and stakeholders who included district and sub-county leaders, youth groups, professional judges, Linking and Learning Facilitators who represented Voice, and SORAK staff among other stakeholders.
Mr. Mohammed Kyeyune, the Executive Director of SORAK noted that the purpose of the event was to create a platform for the youth to engage and get the attention of district and sub-county leaders as well as the general public/community through participatory theatre, music, dance and drama by communicating different messages and challenges faced by the youth which would inform policy and appropriate programming for the youth in the district.
The songs, poems and skits performed by the teens were amazing! They highlighted the challenges teens face in accessing community support and services, particularly in health and education. For instance, the teens from Kigando Sub-county performed a drama skit that portrayed issues that affect the youth including corruption, misuse of resources such as the government-supported Youth Livelihoods Fund, land-grabbing and poor leadership and governance. Another spectacular performance was made by the teens from Kibalinga sub-county who performed a dance and mime. In their performance they said – “We thank our leaders for setting up basic education, health infrastructure including health centers, schools and water sources although we have challenges in enjoying quality services.”
These issues are in tandem with the findings from the Uganda Voice Context Analysis Update 2022, that pointed out several factors affecting the well-being of youth in Uganda. Corruption among political leaders has deprived the youth of resources that they ought to be benefiting from. At that time, the newly elected political leaders in Mubende District were misappropriating resources meant for the youth. They were reported to have shared out a total of 36 cows under operation wealth creation, a government social protection programme hence depriving the rightful youth beneficiaries. Similarly, the community scorecard used by SORAK pointed out gaps in health care and education services for teens. Several health facilities reported stock-outs and stocking of medicines with low shelf-life affecting access to sexual reproductive health services. The shortage of water at schools has also interrupted classes and hindered proper menstrual hygiene management for teenage girls.
Finally, the teens from Bageza Subcounty exhibited a silent theatre skit in which it involved an old woman struggling with daily life in the community such as collecting water and tending her goat by herself while she was quite weak and frail. In this skit, the youth communicated that they care and are capable of being responsible by helping the old woman in the community even though she didn’t want them to help. The moral teaching of the story was that the youth are needed, capable, responsible and are a useful resource to the community once given the opportunity.
The finale of the MDD competition witnessed the overall winner as Nabingola Town Council Youth Group who walked away with the grand prize and the runner-up group being Kibalinga Sub-county Youth Group who took home the second prize. Bageza and Kigando sub-counties came third and fourth respectively.
The teen drama competitions ended on a high note and more importantly, the messages had been passed to their leaders. In summary these were the key takeaways:
- Leaders appreciated the challenges teens face in their communities in accessing basic social services such as education, health, protection, water and livelihood support.
- Teens provided feedback about the current governance challenges in their district which the leaders need to address to improve the welfare of teens and other vulnerable persons in their communities.
- Leaders were reminded of their key responsibilities to their electorate including listing teens as equal citizens and including them in decision-making processes that affect their well-being.
- Teens called upon employers to be fair to youth seeking employment opportunities and not ask for lengthy work experiences that the youth often do not have.
- Leaders were asked to give youth opportunities to take up leadership roles in their communities and desist from the usual threats and intimidation of youth as they try to contend for positions currently held by adult politicians.
The leaders present appreciated the re-awakening messages put forward by the teens. This event was an opportunity to remind them about their roles and responsibilities to the youth and the people of Mubende District as a whole. Below are the several voices from the leaders:
“The Teens Up Project is a very good initiative. I have watched the skits and I almost shed tears because of the messages raised. The youth have advised us to involve them more in the community, sub-country and district affairs. As leaders, we have to listen and be more involved. Also, the youth have asked us to stop asking them for experience that they clearly do not have, as well as setting more realistic terms of employment”. – Mr. Richard Abuzirweki , the District Speaker, Mubende District
“SORAK has done a lot to help teenage mothers in the community. For example, apart from these competitions; they have taught the girls how to make re-usable pads. The youth have spoken today and I hope as duty-bearers we have listened.” – Ms. Ndagire Maria – Deputy Community Development Officer, Mubende District.
“I thank Voice through Oxfam for the support to SORAK which is improving the welfare of teens in our District. We the leaders should not only pay attention to the youth who are in school but even those that are out of school to empower them with different vocational skill-sets that can help them earn a living and create their own jobs. Youth should be and also should emulate positive roles models in their community if they are to become successful in life” – Deputy Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mubende District
“We call upon you leaders to embrace your God-given leadership roles to be a bridge through which the young people can access existing productive resources, especially supporting them to benefit from new Government programs such as the Parish Development Model. I also encourage the parents and caregivers to embrace your nurturing role to care, protect and guide the youth to become responsible adults in the future”- Richard Kaye, Team Leader, Strategic Link (Linking and Learning Facilitator, Voice in Uganda)