Ambassador Babatunde O. Ajisomo, Special Representative of the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to Liberia, over the weekend underscored the importance of youth development at last Friday's closing exercise of the Young Political Leadership School (YPLS) before the holding of the October polls .
The YPLS, he said, is designed to build the political leadership and organizing skills of young people who have chosen to pursue a career in politics and to transform their communities for the best.
The program exposed young people to electoral politics, the campaign process, public speaking, and leadership skills. They also learned about campaign communications, press relations, research, polling and voter targeting thereby preparing them for transformational political leadership to serve their communities.
The graduates are expected to undertake a 12-week citizen engagement, work on campaign teams, facilitate community forums that bring voters face to face with the candidates, document campaign promises and serve as community leaders/volunteers.
NAYMOTE executive director, Eddie Jarwolo, who was in charge of the training, said despite the evidence that young people constitute about 65 percent of the nation's population and that the ages between 18-32 constitute 55 percent of registered voters in Liberia, the dividends of youth participation in national decision-making and the political process are inadequate. To compound this malaise, the youth face increasing challenges ranging from the lack of basic social services to unemployment, multiple forms of inequalities and exclusion, among other setbacks.
Any program that promises to develop the minds of the youth to remain peaceful, Amb. Ajisomo believes, is the best alternative to dissuade their individual or collective minds from potential abuses in a prevailing volatile situation.
And because of that, he cautioned Liberian youth to shun vices that have the tendency to disrupt the upcoming elections, calling on them to rather stay the course of peace so as to develop their full potential during and after the elections.
It has been my great pleasure to meet each of these groups during their seminar, and many afterwards, but I can assure them of ECOWAS' help to a small number of the graduates that would organize themselves to write a project proposal to my office."
"We've had high expectations for the school: what participants would learn, friendships made across party lines and the leadership that YPLS graduates would demonstrate in their own political activities, and we have not been disappointed," Ajisomo told the graduates.
Some of graduates listening the speakers
Two previous speakers who urged the graduates to choose peace instead of violence during and after the elections, were Lilieth Whyte, Economic Officer at the US Embassy in Monrovia, and Elizabeth Mary Lanzi Mazzocchini, Program Manager-Education and Social Service, European Union Delegation to Liberia.
The one week YPLS capacity-building semester, which started July 31, ended on Friday, August 4. It brought together 100 young political leaders from various political parties, university student leaderships, youth-led organizations, youth candidates in the upcoming October elections, and young professionals who are passionate about improving democracy through effective youth leadership and participation.