Young Leader Perspective: Sahara Mama
Young persons can be powerful change agents in their communities. Disseminating information on the electoral cycle, volunteering in voter registration drives, observing elections to ensure rights are respected, and forming watchdog organizations are some of the many ways youths around the world are making a difference.
Below is a Q&A with Sahara S. Mama from Maguindanao, Philippines.
Profession: Provincial Coordinator- Citizens CARE Maguindanao
Please tell us about your work around the latest election.
Last election, aside from being a voter, I was also a poll watcher for a politician in our area. I was in the precinct on Election Day to monitor and observe the process. In contrast with monitoring done by electoral reform advocates, I was monitoring that day for the sake of one candidate. Now I’m in electoral reform, so I will monitor and react if I will see any anomaly or irregularity in an election, with no side to protect, as I had before.
What motivates you to participate in your country’s democratic process?
What really motivates me to participate in our country's democratic process are the situations we have here in Mindanao. As a young person growing up in a community where votes were often purchased by greedy politicians and rampant election-related irregularities were ignored - I asked myself what could I do to change these situations. This led me to believe that change will start through participation in the election and by casting a correct, valid vote and choosing a good leader.
I also believe that my one vote can make a difference. I know that I was not the only one who has this vision of reform, and that there are many people out there who share this sentiment. I have strong faith that by influencing, advocating and educating each other, soon these situations will change.
What do youth bring to the table when it comes to encouraging greater citizen participation?
Many of us youth are very “techy” or familiar with technology; we are best friends with our cell phones and laptop computers and hang out at Internet cafes. Many are addicted to text messaging and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Skype and YouTube. These hobbies could be used by youth in encouraging greater citizen participation, by posting and sending motivating messages to people.
How can we all help foster greater youth involvement?
Youth involvement is visible. Young people have a spirit of volunteerism, and thus, many could be seen performing activities with the government and local groups. Many were also active in advocating for reform. All we need to do is motivate and give them guidance to do these things with due process, and invite them to workshops and trainings where skills will be enhanced.