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Malawian party leaders and young Malawians call for youth wings

Report by Kristian Lausten Madsen, Venstres Ungdom, VU (Danish Liberal Youth) and Anja Katrine Søndergaard, Socialistisk Folkepartis Ungdom, SFU (Socialist People’s Party’s Youth).

The democracy of Malawi is just about as old as us: it was born in 1994, and most of the 5 parties in parliament are even younger. When meeting the party members – old as well as young – you sense an eagerness to develop and build capacity, especially when it comes to involving the Malawian youth in party politics in a meaningful way.

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Kristian Lausten Madsen, Danish Liberal Youth, with members of Malawi’s youth wings.

The Danish Socialist People’s Party & the Liberal Party only agree on few things, but the fact that youth wings are valuable and meaningful is one of them. Now the two parties have joined forces in a partnership with the Malawian Centre for Multiparty Democracy, together with their respective youth wings. The focus of the partnership is on youth and the involvement of young people in Malawian politics in a constructive way.

The Malawian political parties at a pre-appraisal seminar unanimously pointed out involvement of youth as the key issue in 2015, where an assessment of needs within the political parties was carried out. Now the project has started in Malawi with a visit by representatives of the Danish Liberal Youth and Socialist People’s Parties Youth.

We took part in bilateral discussions with each of the respective five parties on youth involvement and facilitated two workshops: one with the party leaders and one with the young members of the parties. Among other issues, we introduced young party members to “How to build” and “How to run a youth wing”.

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Anja Katrine Søndergaard, Socialist People’s Party’s Youth, discussing involvement of youth in politics.

Furthermore, we went through the concept of having an organizational structure with local branches including having a general assembly and organizing an annual congress. Finally, we went through the issue of policy development. Here it struck us: Malawian party leaders and party members struggle to identify policies where their party could differ from the rest. Malawian parties are simply more geographically based and dependent on their respective history and powerful party leader. Ideologies and visions are hard to track, and it seems that many Malawians vote according to ethnicity, what their family do or where they come from. In fact, it was stated in the manifesto of the current government party (DPP), that “The DPP believes that we in Malawi will not resolve our economic and social development problems by using borrowed ideas and concepts. We must pull ourselves up by the boot strings” (From chapter 4: Creating New Wealth).

This is the reason we arranged a workshop with the party members in which they were given the task of reflecting on their ideology and political agenda. Additionally we conducted a simulation of a democratic policy development process, where every party member has the possibility of suggesting an amendment to a political position. It was very inspiring to experience, how the young Malawians were discussing and proposing amendments to the policy paper.

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