Opinion

The Sierra Leone Young People’s Manifesto

7 August 2007 at 08:48 | 458 views

In July of 2006 the Sierra Leone Young Leaders Network with support from British Council, ENCISS, Sierra Leone Network and a host of youth’s and children’s organizations, organized a two-day Youth-led National Development Conference in Freetown, with the theme ’Engaging Young People in State Planning’. The Conference, which was attended by youth, children, civil society, journalists, academics, government officials, political parties’ stalwarts and local authority representatives recommended that a Sierra Leone Young People’s Manifesto be drafted to serve as an advocacy tool, and to promote the interests of young people during the 2007 Parliamentary and presidential elections.

The key issues from the Conference and several regional consultative meetings form the basis of the Young People’s Manifesto. Young People have worked to summarize these key issues, to ensure that they concisely reflect the views of young people from across Sierra Leone. Priority areas raised by young people were: rights and protection, representation, marginalization, education and skills training, public health, employment and financial capacity, sports and culture, and national development issues such as law, human rights, citizenship, good governance, and natural resources. Special emphasis was placed on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report (TRC) and the Sierra Leone Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).

The issues have been put in the forefront, and for the first time in post-war Sierra Leone, the Voters will choose a candidate based on the political party’s commitment to effective policy reforms, and implementation of sustainable development programs that will finally take Sierra Leone to its full potential as a developed country in this growing global world. As all of the organizations and civil society groups push forward their agendas and issues, it is important that the plight, issues, and voice of Sierra Leone’s young generation are not unheard or lost. This is the backdrop for the creation of a Young People’s Manifesto that will contain the shared views and aspirations of Sierra Leone’s young generation toward Sierra Leone’s development.

Young people have demonstrated, in numerous conferences, forums, and other such platforms, their willingness to engage in social development, education, decision-making, and initiatives toward the development of Sierra Leone. The young generation of Sierra Leone has effective representation in each region, and the ability to achieve full productivity and stability based on their personal testimonials on what is exactly needed and required from policy makers and society stakeholders. Yet, due to the ineffective nature of policies and projects established for young people, and the misrepresentation of their needs, there are minimal results. Most of the current youth policies are derived from perspectives other than the direct representation of young people, which result in ineffective solutions.

The Young People’s Manifesto is intended to be the primary document for lobbying and advocacy for young people in Sierra Leone during the 2007 Election-Year and beyond. This document will be used to focus the attention of each political party and other development Stakeholders, requesting their commitment to each recommendation and the adoption of a development program that will meet the dire needs of young people in Sierra Leone. This document has been endorsed by all children’s and youth’s organizations in the entire nation.

With a coalition of Young Leaders - Sierra Leone organization, Sierra Leone Youth Groups, and a Technical Expert Working Group made up of field experts, Civil Society groups, Child Rights Advocates, Gender Advocates, Youth development and NGO representatives - we have produced this Sierra Leone Young People’s Manifesto, outlining the issues of concern for all young people in Sierra Leone. The objective of this Manifesto is to ensure that our issues and needs are understood from our perspective, that policies are reformed and implemented on our behalf, and that the commitment of our future leaders and society’s stakeholders will give priority to the young generation of Sierra Leone.

It is hoped that this manifesto will be adhered to prior to the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. We look forward to the commitment of presidential and parliamentary candidates, representing the various political parties and their constituencies, to address the concerns raised within the manifesto. Each political party is expected to produce its own ’White Paper’ as a response to the manifesto, reflecting the views of young people contained in the manifesto, which we hope will be incorporated in party manifestos for implementation after elections. Again, we are calling on all stakeholders including NGO’s and the international community to consider this manifesto as a working tool in their various developmental planning and implementation processes.

Conclusion

The final draft of the Sierra Leone Young People’s Manifesto will be officially launched prior to the 2007 Elections, with representation of all key representatives of young people in Sierra Leone. This final draft will include the entire content of the Manifesto, including a Young People’s Development Priority Index, which will state clear benchmark targets, goals, and indicators. This is only an introduction to the Young People’s Manifesto and we urge the 2007 Party Candidates and their respective parties, to engage in dialogue with a delegate of child and youth representatives prior to the 2007 Election. The outcome of each consultative meeting and the response from each political candidate will form the basis of the voting decisions by young people in Sierra Leone. We want a Government that prioritizes the needs of young people and take effective action to implement sustainable solutions to our problems and challenges faced in our communities. The Sierra Leone Young People’s Manifesto presents our perspective on what we identify as our key priorities and the solutions needed to effectively resolve them. As we proceed to vote for our next President of Sierra Leone, we will do so on the political candidate’s commitment to address the issues raised in the Sierra Leone Young People’s Manifesto.

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