In Uganda, where 78 percent of people are 30 years old and younger. young people often complain of the lack of voice and meaningful participation in politics.
Political parties are regarded as inaccessible and the domain of older, more experienced politicians. To help address this, IRI launched a political party internship program that supported 31 individual interns to work at six political party offices for six months each. This internship program was part of the USAID-funded Political Competition and Consensus Building (PCCB) program to increase the organizational and policy-making capacity of Ugandan political parties. Toward this goal, IRI worked with the political parties to identify human resource gaps and determine ways in which potential interns could be of assistance. Based on these needs and the interns’ skillsets, interns were assigned to different departments in their political party, including information communication technology (ICT), membership databases, publicity and communications, research and policy, administration, human rights and persons with disabilities (PWD) coordination, women and youth coordination.
IRI’s internal evaluation found that the internship program provided a unique opportunity for skilled young Ugandans to be part of the daily work of political parties. Interns reported that the internship program had given them an opportunity to understand the inner workings of political parties, become professionals and for some, develop political ambitions. A former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) intern, Timothy Ochwo, added, “The internship experience exposed me to the political world… I had… lots of questions about why we can’t get things done. I had many opportunities to sit with the Secretary-General of the party and the departmental heads and would ask them hard questions… I realized, for example, how difficult it is raising money for a party, doing a fundraising for a political party is not a simple thing.” Political party supervisors shared that interns added valuable human resources to the party structure because the internship program is one of the few ways available for Uganda’s political parties, especially in the opposition, to attract and retain professional staff. “At NRM, we retained three out of the four interns [as full-time staff] from the first group because they did a good job with receiving visitors at our busy secretariat and doing outreach to our members during the elections,” said the National Resistance Movement (NRM) intern supervisor, Hudu Hussein.
Programs like this provide young people with the much-needed opportunity to enter the political arena. In addition, by working with young people individually, IRI is able to better support them in their journey and make sure that young people entering politics develop a mindset of service and leadership integrity. When IRI’s support for the intern program ended, 14 interns recruited and trained by IRI were retained as permanent staff by their political parties.
Check out this video for a close-up look at how the internship program helped two young Ugandans better understand their country and how to participate more meaningfully in politics.