By Violeta Cojocaru
31 August 2016 – Youth in Senegal want their decision makers to listen to them before making decisions for them. Finding a way to be heard on issues that matter is exactly why more than 500 young people from all regions of Senegal gathered in Dakar to talk about the importance of youth participation.
The Minister of Youth, Employment and Civic Construction of Senegal, Mame Mbaye Niang, UNICEF Representative Laylee Moshiri, representatives of civil society and youth leaders gathered at the Memory Square in Dakar to discuss the opportunities for youth participation and the youth’s role in the development of the country. Joining the public panel discussion were more than 500 young people from all regions of Senegal, as well as U-Reporters from Guinee, Cameron and Burkina Faso.
“You know, youth policies fail when leaders commit themselves without really taking the time to listen to us. Addressing challenges faced by our countries undoubtedly requires a synergy of all forces, including youth, who represent more than half of the nation”, declared young Tabara Korka, in her opening address on behalf of U-Reporters. Tabara has participated previously to the J5 meeting in Berlin and had the occasion to give her opinion to the most influential politicians of the world, gathered for the G5 meeting. “It was a big revelation for me to see that my voice counts. We, young Senegalese, want to be listened to more in our country also”.
U-Reporters emphasized that they are not only the future of Senegal or of Africa. They also represent the present, and they are ready to accept and bear the responsibilities that responsibility, entails. “If we do not express, if we do not involve ourselves, if we do not act today, we will be guilty of failures that our communities might meet”, stated Tabara.
During the event and projected on a big screen, young people from all corners of the country tweeted their thoughts towards the discussion moderated by the Director of the West Africa Democracy Radio, Souleymane Niang.
U-Reporters from all over the country pledged their full support to exercise their right to participate on issues that affect them. According to the Minister of Youth, Employment and Civic Construction of Senegal, Mame Mbaye Niang, this is a modern way that the Government can consult real-time with young people. He encouraged young people “to get involved and to share information, as this will help the state to take right decisions ”, and stated that “This platform can be a reliable source of youth opinions with great impact on public policies on youth.”
Additionally, the survey results showcasing the statistics about youth engagement was launched and projected on the screen. The results shared that over 52% of young U-Reporters consider that young people are not sufficiently engaged in Senegal.
“When you are actively involved, communities can do a better job of creating the services, opportunities, and support systems that you and other young people need in order to develop, to stay healthy, to prosper” stated Laylee Moshiri, UNICEF Representative in Senegal. ““As a result, this enhances the quality of life for all young people, their schools, and communities and society in general”. “Rights-based society requires citizens with the understanding, the skills, and the commitment to build its institutions, and through participation, children and young people shall develop these capacities”, added Laylee Moshiri
A video message from U-Reporters of Guatemala, Ukraine, Brasilia, France, Honduras, Mali, Guinee, Central African Republic and the Global Innovation Center was shown to the Senegalese young people, welcoming them to global U-Report family, which consists of over 2.5 million young people worldwide.
As of September, there are about 3,928 Senegalese U-Reporters – and the numbers are quickly growing. And they are engaged and determined to help their communities:
- Over 76% of young U-reporters in Senegal consider that the legal marriage age for girls should be increased from 16 to 18;
- 91% support the decision of the state against child begging on the streets, as part of koranic education; and 46% support the reform and modernization of koranic schools as a solution.
These gathered messages are brought to the attention of decision-makers and community leaders. Young people realized that participating through U-Report has encouraged them to make their voices count and that the democracy and public dialogue has gained even more potency in Senegal.