Electoral Rights Fest in Kyrgyzstan Engages Youth in Celebration of International Youth Day

Tatiana Zelenskaya speaks at an art workshop.

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Tatiana Zelenskaya speaks at an art workshop.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) organized a first-ever week-long Electoral Rights Fest for Kyrgyzstan youth in celebration of International Youth Day on August 12, 2021. Young people aged 14-28 constitute almost one-third of Kyrgyzstan’s total population, yet this group remains underrepresented in politics. The festival highlighted the rights and priorities of young people and sought to raise awareness on the importance of participating in the electoral process. More than 300 young aspiring leaders from across the country gathered, including young activists with disabilities, and participated in a multitude of activities. To draw public attention to the issues of youth, all events during the festival week were covered by mass media and disseminated via popular TV and radio channels. With IFES support, several participants of the festival were invited as guests on these radio and TV programs to spread the word about the role of youth in society and in decision-making processes.

Kicking off the week of activities, trainings such as the Academy of Young Leaders in Bishkek and an Inclusive Election School in Osh covered the topics of human rights, electoral rights, gender issues and the rights of people with disabilities. IFES also facilitated a new format for discussion – an Electoral Rights Talk - in response to recent feedback from alumni of IFES’ youth activities, who expressed interest in having discussions with government stakeholders in a less formal venue to create a more comfortable and relaxed atmosphere for young participants when discussing electoral topics. This new platform engaged two deputies of the Kyrgyz Parliament and nationally-recognized representatives of civil society as keynote speakers. During the event, young people were encouraged to share their experiences in facilitating community action projects from before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on similar successful events held ahead of the 2021 presidential election, IFES conducted Quiz Nights for 150 young leaders on the topic of human rights in the cities of Bishkek, Osh and Karakol. A complementary Quiz Night workshop was also organized for journalists, media representatives and media influencers in Bishkek dedicated to the topics of youth and the electoral system and process.

The festival concluded with a skills-based art workshop led by Tatyana Zelenskaya, an eminent young artist and civic activist whose works are widely known in Kyrgyzstan for reflecting acute social and political problems. Zelenskaya shared her experience in creating digital art and demonstrated digital drawing skills to youth participants. By the end of the workshop, participants created their own drawings reflecting the issues they are passionate about, including human rights, political corruption and gender inequality. Artwork created by youth participants will be used as part of IFES’ voter education campaign ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections.

All events within the framework of the Electoral Right Fest week were organized with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Kyrgyz Republic.

For more than 20 years, IFES has been empowering young activists, women and voters with disabilities to become more active in the social, economic and political domains of life. To foster political and civic leadership and bring more young activists to the decision-making table, IFES programming empowers and equips young people with the rights-based knowledge and skills to engage as informed and active citizens.

Watch a video from the Electoral Rights Fest here.

Published on October 20, 2021.

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