Youth Forum: forging a powerful tool

The Youth Forum, formed in 2004, recently held its inaugural congress at which it asserted its place as the first democratic youth movement outside student bodies in post-independent Zimbabwe.

A restructuring exercise has seen the organisation emerging as a platform whereby all youths in Zimbabwe can speak with one voice, regardless of political background – forging a powerful tool for advocacy on issues affecting them.

For the past eight years the Youth Forum has been an active and growing human rights organisation, with the aim of promoting youth empowerment and increasing the participation of young men and women in policy dialogue and political discourse.

The Forum has established a network of grassroots activists and volunteers in most rural farming and mining communities, and urban high density areas. It serves as a unified voice for youths across the country, and has developed a number of initiatives aimed at informing young people of their basic civil and political rights, as well as creating platforms for them to be able to be heard.

It set up a Facebook and Twitter profile in 2010 where young people can be updated on political developments and discuss their views on these issues. The profile currently has 5,000 friends.

Road shows and sports galas are held a few times a year, which helps to spread the message about new campaigns, while Youth Line, a printed newsletter, is produced quarterly.

Successful programmes over the years include the Youth Leadership Training project in 2007, which created a dedicated pool of young activists, who then played a pivotal role in the establishment of the organisation through leading various community initiatives.

The Youth Go and Vote campaign of 2008 sought to mobilize young people in target communities to vote during the elections.

Through this campaign, Youth Forum successfully increased the number of young people that actively participated in the campaign process and voted for their various leaders. In many of the target areas the organisation witnessed progressive candidates assuming leadership as local councillors and Members of Parliament.

In 2009 the forum conducted research on the levels of awareness and knowledge on the national youth policy and exposed the fact that the policy was little known to the youth and did not correspond to their needs and aspirations. This prompted the responsible ministry to initiate a review of the policy, which is still on-going.

In 2010, the Forum developed the Youth Sustainable Dialogue Initiative for Peace, aimed at responding to the massive human rights violations that characterised the period leading up to the June 2008 presidential run-off election. The project brought perpetrators and victims together to find common ground and ways to address the scourge of political violence.

Last year saw the important Youth Voter Registration campaign, which aimed at mobilizing young people over the age of 18 to register as voters. This was in response to research showing that young people were not effectively taking part in the electoral processes especially as voters.

This was strengthened in 2012 when Youth Forum commenced the First Time Voters campaign, in collaboration with seven other youth organisations. This campaign is still ongoing and has begun to assist the young potential voters with information and practical help with voter registration.

This year has seen the setting up of an SMS service, connecting members, supporters and stakeholders. It has a total of 1,280 recipients at the present moment and over 5,000 SMS’s are sent out each month.

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