Last year I had the opportunity to join my fellow young African leaders at the Generation Democracy Regional Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference addressed barriers to youth participation in governance and provided an opportunity to conceptualize workable solutions for the South Africa region.

South Africa is gearing up for its next national elections which will take place in 2019. However, to see low youth voter registration rates from the 2014 election cycle was deeply disheartening, as only 33-percent of people between the ages of 18 and 22 registered to vote. With franchise for all secured a mere 24-years-ago, I am incredibly passionate about voting and elections, and believe exercising our right to vote is not only a way to have your voice heard but is also one way we can pay homage to those who sacrificed their lives and freedom for this right.

Generation Democracy provided a platform for young leaders to incubate ideas, strengthen their capacity and tap inspiration to help create change in my community. In Johannesburg, I gained insight, skills and knowledge on a vast array of topics ranging from community organizing to social media campaigns. We considered the barriers to youth involvement in politics and brainstormed possible solutions to promote meaningful civic education. As a result, I was inspired to launch Change Agents a for youth, by youth initiative focused on promoting youth leadership.

Change Agents focuses on civic education and encourages young people to vote, with the vision of creating a united youth inclusive civil society. The decision to participate in democracy starts with voting, but the lack of simple civic education prevents so many young people from ever reaching the polls. Change Agents provides South African youth access to relevant information on voting registration, as well as reminds young people of their place in democracy by encouraging voting and participation.

We have seen youth stand-up with #FeesMustFall, a student-led protest movement in response to increased fees at South African universities. However, youth cannot stop there, it is imperative that young people consistently use their voice to elect a government of our own choosing. Platforms like Generation Democracy are critical for harnessing the potential in young leaders, encouraging them to be agents of change, and providing them with the tools to incubate and accelerate ideas.  

Cassandra Moodley is a young South African woman passionate about youth and the role they play in shaping communities. Cassandra attended the Generation Democracy South Africa Regional Academy, which brought together 34 young leaders from across the region from May 25 to 28, 2017.

Generation Democracy is a global network of more than 400 young elected officials, civil society leaders, activists and journalists across 70 countries that provides young leaders with a platform to exchange ideas and share best practices to increase political and civic participation among youth. The initiative builds upon IRI’s more than 30 years of experience helping youth across Asia develop their leadership potential, and become more civically and politically engaged.

Up ArrowTop