The ideals, energies, and voices of young men and women are vital for the development of any society. However, one of the greatest challenges facing democracies in the world today is the decreasing involvement of young people in electoral processes. Research shows that globally there is a rising abstention from electoral politics among young people (18 – 35 years of age). And while no scientific data has been produced on this phenomenon in Guyana, we must not think of ourselves as isolated from the problem. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is cognisant of the importance of full youth participation in electoral processes, and will be addressing this issue through its Civic and Voter Education campaign designed for the May 11 Polls.
Enhancing youth involvement in the electoral process is a partnership effort
Important avenues to be explored by persons or entities, desirous of raising the consciousness of the youth about the importance of voting, can be done through a variety of structures such as youth organisations, issue-based Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and even Faith-Based Organisations. However, stimulating youth participation in the electoral process must be a partnership effort of which the youth themselves must play an active part.
GECOM will do its best to create awareness among young people who are eligible to vote, about the importance of voting, while urging that they exercise their rights and responsibilities as voters. However, Guyanese youth must first of all be interested in the electoral processes of the day. Being aware of the issues affecting them and the way in which their participation in the electoral process can benefit society as a whole could demonstrate that Guyanese youth have not lost their civic spirit.
Committed non-partisan youth organisations willing to work with GECOM to disseminate as much pertinent Civic and Voter Education information as possible to Guyanese youth, sensitising them to the need for their involvement in the electoral process, can feel free to contact the Commission.
Through the collective efforts of non-partisan youth bodies with strategic input from GECOM, greater emphasis can be placed on youth empowerment through knowledge of the electoral process as well as the effective creation of voter awareness messages specifically tailor-made for youth. GECOM is willing to provide expert guidance to all interested youth bodies on correct message framing. This will be done to eliminate any politically-partisan elements that may reside in the message content created by youth entities.
GECOM is fully aware that new voters–particularly young, first-time voters–need to be sufficiently educated about the various aspects of voting and must be enthused to take part in the electoral process. Therefore, we encourage and welcome the involvement and leadership of youth programmes by young persons and youth organisations that are free of political affiliation.
Youth must want to be engaged
Social media and communication technology play very important roles in the lives of young people today. The use of these new media technologies can also be employed, in a positive and uplifting way, as powerful tools for empowering the youth to become more involved in the political process.
Social media lowers traditional socio-economic barriers to political involvement and provides youth with a platform to build capacity, and to mobilise political action. The importance of voting, as well as how, where and when to vote would represent information that young people need to know. GECOM can help, but young people must firstly actively show an interest in wanting to be involved.