Monday, January 17, 2022

Youth in politics up against insurmountable barriers

The Roundtable on Elections and Youth that took place in Centurion, South Africa says Botswana electoral laws discourages young people to actively engage in politics and even register to vote.

The event was arranged by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) in collaboration with the Electoral Commissions Forum of the Southern Africa Development Community countries (ECF-SADC). 

According to the report compiled shortly after the event a young Motswana is faced with an uphill battle in trying to enter the political space.

The report says young Batswana encounter difficulties during election campaigns.

They continue to be confronted by more problems during their formal life in electoral politics.

During the period of campaigning it is difficult for young Motswana to mobilise funding as many consider them as too young and inexperienced to enter politics. This then means that the young politician depends on their families and friends for financial support. The issue of age also comes to play in Botswana as older people in politics often struggle to accept a younger politician as candidate. They question their maturity and whenever they react to what the young politician might have put forth, older people often react to them on the basis of age not on the substance of issues. 
The Roundtable recommended changing electoral laws so that they encourage younger people to register and engage; building the confidence of young people through active training in electoral politics and  working on strategies to enhance access to media and the use of social media for campaigns.
The report further emphasizes that the electoral system in Botswana has an impact on the participation of youth.
Building youth inclusion is considered important and can be achieved by changing the voter registration system so that young people do not have to overcome this problem repeatedly as this is often a disincentive for their participation.
The report highlights that levels of youth participation in national and regional representative structures has been low in the region and very often elections fail to attract the attention of the youth.
Many young people exercise power outside of formal electoral processes in situations of social and economic exclusion and difficulty. Little is often done to specially target young people and build their confidence in formal democratic electoral systems as a vehicle for political renewal. Even as there are varied reasons for the low levels of participation of young people, Electoral Management bodies have a crucial role to play in advancing inclusion of youth in electoral processes and in structures of political representation, says the report.

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