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Nurturing the next cadre of democracy defenders in Sierra Leone

 Youths trainees reflecting on lessons learned, successes, challenges and opportunities of the Programme. Photo credit: International IDEA
The involvement of youth in electoral and democratic governance processes is crucial for inclusive democratic governance globally, including the strengthening of Sierra Leone's democracy.

The Youth in Democracy Traineeship programme will bolster this vital aspect of democracy, and it is an initiative introduced by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in partnership with the Political Parties Regulation Commission (PPRC) under the Sierra Leone Democracy Strengthening Programme. 

The initiative aims to empower young people and equip them with essential skills in electoral and democratic governance, through learning by doing, in preparing a cadre of electoral experts and democracy defenders.

Embracing the active involvement of young Sierra Leoneans is crucial for fostering sustainable and all-encompassing progress. The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda's core tenet of 'ensuring no one is left behind' aligns with the democratic principles of incorporating all segments of society- including the youths- in shaping the economic, social and political landscape. Young people constitute a substantial portion of Sierra Leone's population, and their perspectives, energy, and fresh ideas are pivotal in shaping the nation's future. Recognizing this potential, the Youth in Democracy Traineeship is harnessing the power of young people to contribute to the political landscape and promote good governance practices.

Experimental learning on the field

In May this year, the first batch of twenty (20) enthusiastic and motivated young Sierra Leonean university graduates were carefully selected, trained and deployed at the Political Parties Regulation Commission (PPRC) for six months for mentorship and experimental learning. During this time, these aspiring democracy sustainability champions have actively supported the PPRC to deliver its activities and mandate across the country. From the bustling streets of Freetown to the serene corners of hard-to-reach areas in the province, the trainees have immersed themselves in the heartbeat of democratic activities.

Some youths were even allowed to work in the PPRC's Situation Room during the 2023 Sierra Leone Elections. Here, they witnessed first-hand the intricate mechanisms of democracy and election processes. Others were engaged in community outreach programmes, organizing sensitization campaigns, and engaging in fruitful discussions with local communities on peaceful elections.

One of the highlight events was the Peace March/Float Parade, organized by the PPRC, which aimed at bringing together youth and stakeholders to awaken a shared consciousness in the hearts of citizens about the significance of peaceful elections, fostering solidarity and togetherness among diverse actors for peaceful electoral dialogue.

Significant impact in youth people's lives

Edwina Davies, one of the youth trainees posted in Magburaka, Northern Sierra Leone, enthusiastically shared her experience: "The Peace March was one of the activities I facilitated. And through our efforts, we brought together youth and stakeholders in a collective endeavour to champion peace, leaving an impact before, during and after the 2023 General Elections."

Another trainee, Abdul Aziz K. Mohamed, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to contribute: "The experience was incredible, especially for us fresh graduates. We had the privilege of involving in different activities of the Commission and sending daily reports and activity updates, which allowed us to gain practical insights into the workings of democracy and governance practices in Sierra Leone."

Whilst providing them the platform to actively participate in the electoral and democratic process, these aspiring democracy advocates have been opportune to learn essential skills in political mediation, coordination, mobilization, facilitation, and other critical governance skills and knowledge. These skills are vital for effective participation in democratic processes and strengthen the foundations of democracy in Sierra Leone.

"Mobilizing and capacitating young people to be interested and meaningfully participate in democratic governance processes is part of democracy nurturing and strengthening," said Dr Idrissa Mahmoud Tarawallie, Head of Sierra Leone Country Programme, International IDEA. "The youth in democracy traineeship programme will equip young people with the necessary skills to navigate the complexities of democratic processes and participation effectively".

The Youth in Democracy Internship program is an essential activity of the broader Democracy Strengthening Project in Sierra Leone, which International IDEA is implementing with generous support from the European Union Delegation.

As these trainees continue their learning journey, the impact of their collective efforts promises to be far-reaching. By nurturing this next generation of democracy advocates and governance leaders, Sierra Leone is taking a vital step towards fostering an inclusive and vibrant democratic society where the voice of youth resonates strongly in the halls of governance.


About the authors

Former staff member - Alfred Fornah
Communications Officer
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