By: Mbalenhle Mkhize
The Democracy Development Program in partnership with Africa Unite and Empophomeni/ Howick West youth hosted a youth representation awareness campaign. This campaign was done on the 3rd of October 2020, under the theme “Enhancing Youth Representation in the Local Government Spectrum”. Umngeni Municipality is a small town in KZN which is critically faced with triple threat inequality, unemployment, and poverty, and that mostly affects vulnerable groups such as the youth and women. Due to high levels of inequality, unemployment, and poverty young people of this community have involved themselves in illegal high-risk activities. This has often resulted in serious mental health disorders amongst the youth and high usage of drugs and alcohol, which potently diverts their attention hence we see a scarce youth representation in South Africa.
Against this background, young people of the uMngeni Municipality are concerned about the level of youth representation in local government and have then decided to start lobbying and advocating for a 50% youth representation at a local government level. It involves raising awareness to the youth about the different methods of participation that exist at a local government level. This includes participating in local political structures, community structures, and the electoral process through voting and being part of the election observer mission. The initiative is aimed at raising awareness and concertizing citizens about enhancing youth representation at a local government level, spark a conversation among themselves so they can start engaging on the topic, and work towards lobbying for a maximized youth representation. They believe that enhancing youth representation will contribute to South Africa’s socio-political and economic development.
This awareness campaign consisted of walking around Howick West with a PA system and Loud hailer educating citizens about local government and how the youth can actively participate in available structures in their community. We did a 5 KM walk, with 3 stops in between, and distributed the DDP materials My Vote Counts and Democracy and You pamphlet and booklet. Through this engagement we were able to reach over 100 community members as they were able to listen to our message in the comfort of their homes, listening in from their yards.