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Youth voter registration and ambitions for the future - Interview Wellington Zindove, Youth Forum
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa, Kubatana.net
October 05, 2011

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Inside/Out with Wellington Zindove - Read more

Wellington ZindoveWellington Zindove is the projects co-ordinator for the Youth Forum. Formed in 2004, the Youth Forum was established with the aim of encouraging youth participation in democratic processes. The Forum is currently running a campaign called "Youth, register to vote" which hopes to register one million Zimbabwean youths before the next election.

Why was the Youth Forum formed?
The Youth Forum was formed to give young people a platform and get them interested in issues to do with democracy, politics and governance in general.

Do you think that there is space for young people to participate in those issues in Zimbabwe?
That space is not given; it has to be fought for. What we've seen even with the inclusive government is that that space is not clearly defined neither is it given to young people. People are not free to say what they want, neither can they act in a manner that they would wish.

What would you say are the hopes of young people in Zimbabwe?
I think young people's ambitions have not been realised. Something as basic as going to school and finding a job is very difficult. That's a big challenge. That has been as a result of the decay of our politics, the human rights issues, corruption and mismanagement of the economy are some of the things that have led us to where we are. Listen

From your experience within your network of young people, how would you say they are working to reclaim their space and realise their ambitions if at all?
We work in disseminating information to the youth, finding ways to economically empower them and also we deal with governance. There are various efforts around the country, some young people are visible in politics, be it party politics or civic political engagement, in the economic front there are young people who are very enterprising, although the issue of resources and capital are frustrating. Listen

How did the Youth Go Register To Vote Campaign come about?
It was as a result of wide consultations among our youth members and stakeholders who had been supporting our work. There was a lot of talk around elections, and we realised that elections had always been taken as an event, and that has left out a lot of stakeholders, particularly young people. We felt that they had not taken up the responsibility of playing their part; instead they had been perpetrating violence, gate keeping, toyi-toyi-ing and so on. We also found that many young people did not have national IDs and could not even vote come an election. We wanted to invest in teaching young people about their civic duty, and that they have a stake in the political future in the country. We try to develop a sense of understanding around these processes because the youth do not understand that an election is not an adult affair. What the adults have done is simply to borrow the country, so we are teaching the youth to say 'no, no, no you have borrowed this land from us'. Listen

How successful has the campaign been?
I think considering that this is a unique campaign in Zimbabwe and it's never been done before, the campaign has had its own frustrations. Being a non-profit we rely entirely on donor support. When we launched this initiative, that was when everyone was focussed on the constitution making process and unfortunately we could not get support for it. So we used the Internet and existing platforms for our advocacy and education. Donors were saying that this project was a waste of time and it was not sustainable. But we felt we needed to create a generation of young people who could hold their leadership accountable. We launched voters clubs around the country. Unfortunately our success rate hasn't been that high. Our aim was to register at least one million youths, and we are working in partnership with other youth organisations to see how we can achieve this.

What would you say is one of the successes of the campaign?
Through our email feedback we have found that there are young people who have never voted but are now more aware about the process of elections. We also feel that we have shed more light on the practices and conduct of the Registrar General's office. We feel that a recent posting by the Registrar General saying that registration is a continuous process was in response to our campaign. Information is now reaching the grassroots.

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