Voices of Youth Amplified in LareWoreda

In LareWoreda, Gambella Region, the participation of youth in decision making was very minimal. You could find that in every 10 officials only 1 was youth. The cabinet was dominantly comprised of the older officials and the few youth who managed to get a position was a junior officer despite the educational backgrounds. Selection of leaders was based on clans, connections and favouritisms. You could find a very old person leading a certain office not because he has vast experience in executing the office’s duties and mandates but because his clan is the strongest/powerful at the time and he is favoured by the clan. And if the winds of power change, the new clan in power will immediately dismiss him and install their favourite from their clan. This system of leadership selection has curtailed many young people with great potential to bring change in their communities. Many youth have been shut out and many more have resorted to cross the river and join the rebels in South Sudan despite their educational achievements.

Youth Voice Ethiopia Project came as a blessing to the youth in LareWoreda at a time when divine intervention was much needed. With the generous support from CSSP2, the project established different platforms which were strengthened to work towards contributing to good governance, inclusive democracy and social accountability. These platforms include; youth-led social accountability committee (SAC), LareWoreda youth and community volunteer coalition support group, LareWoreda Peace and Co-existence clubs, permanent platform of citizens (youth) and state as well as a social media group of youth. These groups were supported through different trainings and mentoring to build their capacity throughout the project period. Youth-led inter-ethnic dialogue and partnership conferences were conducted to identify the causes of conflicts and their solutions through dialogues with youth and elders on tradition reconciliation mechanisms with the adaptation of alternative mechanisms of conflict resolution. Youth-led cultural and sports events were also conducted to create awareness in the community on peaceful co-existence with different clans. Several policy dialogue sessions and critiques were conducted on policies relating to youth, women, health, education and job creation. Both the youth and government officials were trained on social accountability and evaluation done using community score card on education, health, employment, youth and women sectors in the woreda.

Significant results have been seen in the woreda. One is that the woreda is ready to embrace inclusive democracy and good governance by giving the opportunity to youth to participate in the upcoming general elections. It has been decided that in the upcoming elections at least 10 of the candidates for the Prosperity Party must be youth in each kebele. 10 youths in each kebele is a very big change! The youth now have the chance to voice their concerns and at least the youth with relevant education will get the chance to lead their communities for positive sustainable change.

Youth have great potential if given the chance to participate in communitie.

Information is power. The older regime of clans acted out of ignorance, through the project interventions they understood their place in the society as advisors and to leave the active participation for youth.