After attending civic awareness training, Doris Elijah, realized that her vote could actually make change. During the 2010 national elections in Tanzania, she decided to make use of it for the first time
Doris Elijah, who is 28 years old and lives in Kibaha, half an hour’s drive from Dar es Salaam.
I couldn’t see the point of voting during the elections in 2005. I used to think that my vote didn’t matter because things never change anyways
Her sentiments are not very different from those of many young Tanzanians who feel left out of the political system – and feel that since no one represents their concerns then it is not worth getting involved.
However during 2010 Doris attended a civil awareness training organised by YPC in Kibaha and that convinced her that her vote mattered – and that democracy is not only about elections.
“I realized that if I want things to change I have to participate and contribute to the democratic processes. Nothing changes if people stay at home and don’t get involved. There are so many changes I would like to see. I would like to have leaders that fight poverty and promote equality and brings development to the communities I can work for that by being involved, voting and questioning the political leaders instead of staying at home,” tells Doris Elijah, who is a primary school teacher.
From passive to active voter
She is not the only one who changed her mind about politics during the election year of 2010.
“I voted during the 2005 elections but it was an unconscious vote,” laughs Tatu Salum Mwidowe, who is 24 years old and lives in Kibaha. Like Doris she attended civic awareness trainings organised by YPC, which made her realize that politics is for everyone.
“The most important thing I realized is that democracy is not just about voting but knowing why you vote and what consequences your vote has. I used to think that this candidate might be good because he comes from a specific area or bring gifts in return for votes but not during this last election,” stated Tatu, who scrutinized the candidates agendas, followed the debate and finally voted for the candidate, that met her expectations.
“I voted for someone who I believe is accountable and will work for the benefit of the people and bring development. And I have not regretted my vote,” laughs Tatu.
If we want change and development we have to elect accountable leaders – and not throw our votes after whoever hands out gifts during the election campaign
“Youth are facing huge challenges such as unemployment and poverty and for many years youth have been left out of influence. If we want things to change we have to make an effort to change things and get involved. Not only by casting our votes but by being involved all year around”!
Getting youth involved
YPC has among other activities conducted civic awareness training leading up to the local elections in 2009 and the national elections in 2010. The civic awareness training has not only aimed at getting youth registered and inspired to vote but also provided a general introduction to democracy; citizens rights and obligations and not least promoted youth for political positions.
Youth Partnership Countrywide (YPC) is a national organisation established in 2003. YPC aims to widen the space for youth participation in local politics and to strengthen youth political consciousness. Through voters’ education, public debates and support to youth candidates in local and national elections, YPC attempts to change the political culture that prevents youth from influencing and accessing local politics.
The partnership with ActionAid Tanzania
The voter’s education programme runs under the partnership between ActionAid Tanzania and YPC. The project supports a media campaign and public meeting in which more than 2,400 of a total population of 27.000 youth have been educated to vote and/or run as candidates during the 2009 local- and 2010 national elections .
ActionAid Tanzania supports YPC in empowering youth to influence development and decision-making at the district and sub-district levels in Kibaha. This includes establishing a Youth Forum and eight Youth Vote Groups through which youth are organised and empowered to hold local leaders and officials accountable for service delivery and meaning participation of youth in decision-making.