“We cannot achieve the goals set out in the Malawi 2063 national agenda if young people are left behind.” These are the words of Precious Mafunga, a fellow of the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) Next Generation Leaders’ Academy and member of the Quota4Youth initiative. While many in Malawi are frustrated with the slow pace of change regarding the inclusion of young people in politics, Precious and the Next Generation fellows are committed to taking action to change the face of politics in Malawi.
Over the last year, the Chakwera administration has put youth policy issues high on its national agenda. The Malawi 2063 (MW2063) national strategy outlines Malawi’s priorities, including the active participation of youth in decision-making and governance systems and guaranteed youth access to quality education, skills development, and job opportunities. However, youth and women continue to face inclusion barriers within civil society and political parties. Despite comprising over 80 percent of the population, young people and women are largely relegated to deputy positions due to their lack of social capital and cultural barriers such as ageism and sexism.
Funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), NDI’s Next Generation Youth Leaders’ Academy works with Malawian youth from civic and political spaces to develop skills to advocate for youth priorities within their organizations, parties, and communities. During the second iteration of the nine-month leadership academy, 24 youth fellows received targeted assistance to build their leadership skills, strengthen their ability to develop policy recommendations, and empower them to implement solutions based on identified youth priorities in their respective communities. For Kumbukani Mamba, a youth fellow based in the Bakala district, climate policy was a priority, for he found that the locality was disproportionately affected by environmental disasters. In response, he developed an organization, Springs of Hope (SOH), to support local youth in advocating for climate policy through meaningful political participation. Through the Next Generation program, he and other civil society organizations (CSO) fellows refined their advocacy approaches by identifying relevant issues and implementing action plans for advocacy campaigns.
On May 25, NDI convened its second annual Next Generation Youth Leaders’ Academy Project Symposium for fellows to showcase the skills acquired through the academy. Political and civic leaders from Malawi - including the Minister of Youth and Sports, Hon. Richard Chimwendo Banda; US Embassy Cultural Affairs Specialist, Ms.Tendai Banda; and Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) Executive Director, Mr. Kizito Tenthani - shared their experiences as cross-sectoral leaders in youth policy. The project symposium also featured presentations highlighting the fellows’ experiences implementing policy advocacy projects and drafting youth party manifestos.
“We should try to prepare ourselves for leadership positions. We need to gain the necessary experience to become the leaders we aspire to be… We have to ensure there is a progressive search for space for young people without displacing others.” - Kizito Tentanthi, CMD
Civil society fellows’ presentations focused on their work implementing community-level initiatives in a variety of sectors including climate change mitigation, equal access to education, women’s empowerment, accountability and transparency, health services, and youth-focused access to capital. Political party fellows spoke about their cross-party initiative to institute a 25 percent youth quota for key party leadership positions. Initially presented by a former participant of NDI’s regional Political Party Leadership Institute (PPLI), the Next Generation Fellows adopted the Quota4Youth (Q4Y) initiative as a joint advocacy project and organized a coalition of youth party members from the six main political parties in Malawi to present the youth quota as a bill during the next parliamentary sitting in September 2022. During a plenary session following the symposium, which allowed for intergenerational experience sharing and interfacing with senior leaders and prominent stakeholders, the Chair of the Youth Caucus Hon. Owen Chomanika co-signed the initiative and emphasized his continued support for future advocacy around establishing youth quotas.
The youth fellows graduated from the leadership academy at the end of May, ahead of NDI’s third iteration of the Next Generation program, which commenced in July 2022 with a new cohort of young civil society and political party leaders from Malawi. Through the upcoming leadership academy, NDI will continue to engage youth leaders, senior party members, and executives to promote youth responsive policies and create space for young people’s inclusion in politics.
A video highlighting the symposium can be viewed below.
Authors: Samira Mohamed, Program Associate, Southern and East Africa; Christopher Chirambo, Program Officer, NDI Malawi
NDI's engagement in Malawi is implemented with support from the National Endowment for Democracy.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.