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 Camara Danso from Conakry, Republic of Guinea.
Profession: Veterinarian; Leader of the Junior Chamber International (JCI)
Please tell us about your work around the latest election.
During the 2010 presidential election, I coordinated a program initiated by Junior Chamber International in partnership with IFES. We targeted over 145 political parties and organized voter education activities for their members.
We were especially busy between the two rounds of election, which lasted over four months. During this time we explained the voting system, political alliances and the importance of accepting the final results of an election. This was important because of the radicalization of the two main parties in the race.
One of our main messages was: “If you don't get out to vote, someone else will be deciding on your behalf.”
What motivates you to participate in your country’s democratic process?
I believe that each and every citizen should be engaged in the political, social and economic development of his or her country. We worked with IFES to explain the importance of free and fair elections and a peaceful transfer of power (known as alterance) to mostly illiterate youths. Political alternance is a pillar of democratic development in the country, and should be understood by everyone.
What do youth bring to the table when it comes to encouraging greater citizen participation?
Youth can educate citizens, and play a significant role in preventing conflict. Since youth tend to be the main perpetrators of electoral violence, they are in a better position to sensitize their peers to seek alternative ways of resolution and political expression.
How can we all help foster greater youth involvement?
By supporting continued civic and electoral education initiated by youth organizations.