By VICTORIA OHAERI EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SPACES FOR CHANGE
Involvement in the democratic process among young people in Nigeria has been poor and has prompted much discussion as to how young people can be actively encouraged to both register for and vote during elections. SPACES FOR CHANGE capitalized on the accessibility of the social media to promote civic participation, especially of young people in democratic governance, while reinforcing the philosophy of youth engagement in critical issues bordering on peace and security, economic governance, housing, urban development and environmental justice. This presentation includes a summary of discussions on S4C’s online knowledge-sharing portals: http://www.facebook.com/groups/spacesforchange/ permalink/326545674093871/
Evidence shows that the youth constitute the majority of Nigeria’s population: Nigeria has over 160million people and 90% of the population is below 65 years. 0–14 years:44% 15–64 years:53% Youth comprise over 50 per cent of the entire voters registered by INEC young voters were key to Barack Obama's victory: poll showed that young voters preferred Obama over John McCain: by 68 percent to 30 percent Youth participation lays the foundation for political succession planning/leadership development Increases legitimacy of elected officials and accountability It is a civic duty: “Voting is a core act of citizenship and civic engagement crucial to our success as a democracy”. - CIRCLE
Approximately 33% of 18-24 year olds turned out to vote in the USA Presidential election in 2000 similar to the turnout in the UK during the 2001 Westminster elections (39%). This was a record low turnout for an American election and part of a twenty-five year trend of decline. Canada: the rate of reported turnout among the youngest voters dropped significantly between 1988 and 2000. Overall reported turnout declined from 88% to 81% during this time. USA: Voter turnout among young voters ages 18-29 went up, pushing youth turnout over 50% of eligible youth voters in 2008. The participation growth was fueled in part by large increases in voting by young voters 18-29 and Latino and Black voters. USA: An estimated 24% of young people (ages 18-29) voted in the 2010 midterm elections, according to newly released Census data analyzed by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) Wide gap in youth turnout between presidential and midterm elections.
Gender of contestants, insignificantly affected levels of interest Religion, ethnicity significantly affected levels of interest (esp. in the North and the SE/SS) Males had a higher level of interest than females. Educated youths had greater interest in political engagement/discources while non-literate were more interested in actual turn-out on voting day Bandwagonism: young people’s votes tilted in the same direction, and they tend to support the same candidate., Youth faced barriers to engagement with political processes: Political parties such as PDP,ACN, CPC et al. had no genuine platforms for engaging youth. Many young people did not know who their political representatives/contestants much less know about how to effectively influence them Young people did not actively seek information or engage electoral processes. Absence of formal structures of learning, skills and knowledge transfer between old and new voices in election monitoring and citizen engagement Emergence of new spaces, voices led by youth – embrace of new social media; increased incident reporting; high speed information dissemination using email, Twitter, Facebook, SMS Platform, BBM, dedicated websites, phone calls Inspiration from global events: Arab Spring, youth protests in New York, Greece et al Increasing post-electoral violence (youth were both victims and perpetrators) about 800 lives were lost ….
Youth view electoral issues as highly complex subject, disconnected or irrelevant or ‘too removed’ to their current lives and problems. Negative branding of politicians – (too many cartoons on the social media that brand politics negatively) Too many “political oldies” (recycled politicians) in the ‘battle field” Older politicians do not encourage young people to aspire to leadership positions e.g. IBB’s made a statement about youth’s incapacity to lead. He later recanted. High skepticism about the capacity of the electoral process to deliver positive change: employment, voice, visibility, good governance Manifestoes were not youth-responsive: Majority felt that issues which were of importance to their age group were rarely on the political agenda of political parties Limited opportunities to participate in the political process e.g PDP’s 60 year-old youth leader Ignorance or lack of knowledge about the electoral process and how to participate; High costs associated with the electoral/political process Do or die politics Results do not reflect votes cast Electoral violence: politicians will find them willing tools for perpetration of all kinds of illegalities
There needs to be a clear definition of the youth age bracket (National Youth Policy says 18-35, NYSC Act says 18-30. Some literature suggests 18-45) Getting youths involved in the wider democratic process…not just elections and voting Alleviating apathy with more education about politics, political issues, electoral process and good governance: Use appealing language. If words don’t get the message across, maybe images or movies do. Communications/messaging: Use role-models and involve people they respect or look up to Introduction of citizenship education in secondary schools/universities. Fostering politicians/contestants-youth closeness Compulsory voting: This is practiced in Honduras, Bolivia, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cyprus, Switzerland et al Recruit young people as poll workers: safety guarantees, life insurance policy for poll workers Prosecuting those found culpable of electoral offences Integrating rural voices (youth in rural settings): In 2008, 132 million or three of five eligible American voters, lived in non-battleground states where campaigns rarely visited, spent little to no money and did little organizing Organizing and building partnership with virtual communities
motivate young people …ensure electoral projects and processes really addresses their needs. Social benefits: young people are looking for fun, social status, recognition, sense of belonging to a group. • Pragmatic benefits: young people want to see what the point is in the things they are doing, new skills to put on their CV or activities that open doors to economic opportunities • Psychological benefits: young people are constantly seeking to distinguish themselves, they need self-esteem. • Material benefits: young people are sometimes very interested in small material benefits, like a T-shirt, free drinks, free food or small presents. This should not be seen as a bribe, but it could be a way to get them on board initially and, once actively participating in the project, they will hopefully see other benefits.
Voter turnout is driven primarily by the importance of the election, political competition, citizen mobilization (Imo elections) America: states with Election Day Registration (EDR) had, on average, much higher turnout rates. Minnesota, an EDR state with a steadily diversifying population, remained the turnout leader in 2008 with a record 78.1% of eligible voters casting a ballot. “If not for EDR, tens of thousands of voting-eligible Iowans would not have been able to participate in this historic election.” – Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro Enhancing internal democracy in political parties Increasing youth quota in political parties Reduction of participation age (Constitutional review) Reduction of election spending Auditing elections…conduct demographic and statistical analysis of voting trends according to age, gender, tribe, locality, and regions. Increased collaborations with the civil society to engage communities with a history of non-voting, those communities least likely to be reached by traditional voter outreach methods. Facilitating party ideology/manifesto content engagement between diverse groups and pol. parties
Nigeria: Election Situation Room (PLAC) Virtual communities: 2011 Nigeria elections(incident reporting/mandate protection….. Occupy Nigeria Canada, US: After each election, analyses are conducted to determine the participation rate by age group, and each age group is surveyed. In 2007, Elections Canada provided its assistance to the Canadian Policy Research Networks for in-depth studies on youth electoral participation. Brazil: conducting special registration campaigns in neighbourhoods with a high concentration of students and constituencies where postsecondary institutions are located. Nigeria: Election period coincides with holidays. Canada: Voter registration and polling stations were set up on campuses to make it easier for young people to vote USA/Nigeria: make extensive use of new communications technologies: Technology should not, however, be regarded as a panacea for increasing youth electoral engagement. Canada: parliamentary and electoral simulation exercises to give young people their first exposure to the political process(2004, 2006,2008) Election Day Registration (EDR): Iowa and Montana adopted Election Day registration (EDR), enabling voters to fix a registration issue or register for the first time at the polls on Election Day. EDR was deemed a success and both states improved their national rank in voter turnout Ireland: Young voters site INEC: Increase collaboration with CSOs, virtual communities. Timely too! PROTECT YOUTH CORPERS AND YOUNG POLL OFFICERS!!!! Bridging initiatives to facilitate mentoring, skill and knowledge transfer between older and younger organizations (PLAC/S4C)
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