Maimuna Mtengela is an Intern at Restless Development Tanzania and she leads the field implementation of our Iringa Young Reporters Network – part of our most successful project in Tanzania called MabintiTushikeHatamu! (Girls lets be leaders). In the second piece of a new fortnightly blog feature about Restless Development’s Big Conversation, she explains why young people would rather participate in The Big Conversation than the General Election in Tanzania.

“We will buy everything three days before election day, when election day come we will go early in the morning to vote and after that we will lock ourselves at home, this is for both of you”. That’s what my mother is telling us almost every time we talk about the 2015 Tanzanian General Election, which will be held this October.

At the moment in Tanzania we have more than 20 political parties with a few strong parties including ruling party “Chama Cha Mapinduzi-” (CCM). For the past ten years opposition parties have been struggling to take part in the government. Several incidents happened, police violence and conflicts have occurred causing injures and death.

This is the reason my mom says that we will lock ourselves right after voting. She is worried (like many people) that violence and conflicts will take place on Election Day too. I am sure most of the people in Tanzania have similar plans to my mum’s for the election day or maybe they will not even show up to vote.

While political parties and NGO’s are encouraging young people to register to vote, they believe that most of them will not vote when it comes to Election Day. Young people don’t feel secure during campaigns and on Election Day and the lack of security prevent them from participate fully.

A recent study conducted by Restless Development Tanzania on the state of youth across seven regions, revealed that 59% of young people did not vote in either the last village, ward, local or national elections. This was due to a variety of reasons, including lack of interest, not being registered to vote, lack of information or trust and fear of violence.

As a young person I believe change starts with us. I know my vote is my right and I will not give this opportunity up. I wish that every young person in Tanzania had the opportunity to engage as I also know that when young people are informed and empowered to participate they will get involved and express their opinion.

At Restless Development we recently run global Big Conversation with all our partners and stakeholders to ask what are the most crucial issues facing young people today and inform the development of our new strategy. I was very excited to take part in this.

In Tanzania Young people participated in our conversation by contributing through a series of workshop sessions which were run in 6 regions: Dar es Salaam, Iringa, Dodoma, Mbeya, Moshi and Ruvuma. Following the workshops, 800 questionnaires were distributed and 530 were sent back, 243 by males and 287 by females. At the same time we promoted the Big Conversation through social media, reaching our staff in the 6 regions as well as our alumni network and other young stakeholders.

The participation of Young people in our Big Conversation was amazing. Out of all respondents, 83% were youth. Young people participated in our consultation because they were informed and supported through our peer to peer education model, a safe and friendly environment and participatory approach. Through this process they learned about Sustainable Development Goals and other important development matters and were able to express their views and opinions on issues that affect their lives. More importantly, they knew that their participation in the consultation is valued and has the purpose of helping us grappling with some of the important issues at the base of our strategy.

In Tanzania the findings from Big Conversation will help us with the development of a new strategy for 2016 and the implementation of projects that involve young people in finding solutions to solve their own problems and be active participants in decision making.

One of those projects is “Fahamu, Ongea, Sikilizwa”, an election project that aims to create awareness and enable young people to have the information, skills and tools to participate in political processes, encouraging them to register to vote and participate in the election.

Going forward I hope that young people in Tanzania will become confident in participating in decision-making process and that the government will provide a safe environment and opportunities for meaningful engagement so that young people can contribute in identifying issues and solutions to solve their problems and those of their communities just as they did in the Big conversation.

What do you think?

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