In a recent podcast hosted at the MCI Radio, KQHUB AFRICA collaborated with the Media Challenge Initiative, MCI RADIO, National Youth Council, and WEF Global Shapers Kampala, to bring the topic of discussion that revolved around the importance of amplifying youth voices through storytelling and agenda setting. The podcast shed light on the challenges faced by young people in Uganda when it comes to political engagement and civic spaces. It also explored the potential of the arts as an alternative avenue for youth to express themselves and contribute to civic change.
The podcast began by addressing the prevailing notion that civic spaces are shrinking in Uganda, which has resulted in many young people shying away from political engagement. Vivian Kabasinga from the National Youth Council emphasized that civic spaces encompass more than just mainstream politics or positions within the government. She highlighted the importance of utilizing various platforms, such as Twitter, to create the change that young people need. According to Vivian, civic spaces should encompass representation in media, debates, and other forms of discourse.
The civic art talk was convened by KQHUB AFRICA, WEF Global Shapers Kampala, Media Challenge Initiative, and the National Youth Council. It aimed to explore how young people can effectively explore civic spaces and make an impact while staying politically engaged. One of the main reasons for the disengagement of youth in the civic space was attributed to systemic violence, lack of economic capacity, and limited knowledge. However, it was evident that young people are genuinely interested in civic engagement and want to voice their opinions. The challenge lies in refocusing their energy and providing them with the necessary tools and opportunities for meaningful engagement.
Dante pointed out that discussions on youth engagement often occur in smaller clusters and are not widely disseminated. Many schools in Uganda do not prioritize teaching civic engagement, and interactions on civic change and politics often begin in universities or after graduation. Moreover, the media has not been proactive in promoting youth participation in policy and civic engagement, often only highlighting these issues during election periods. The media landscape, driven by the needs of advertisers, has failed to prioritize the transformation of society through amplifying youth voices.
The youth agenda, as discussed in the podcast, includes basic demands and policies related to decent employment, quality education, a robust healthcare sector, and a fair tax system. Vivian Kabasinga emphasized that these issues are vital for the well-being and prosperity of young people in Uganda. Dante added that the media plays a crucial role in shaping the youth agenda and directing attention toward pressing issues. To tackle the challenges of disengagement and to ensure sustained civic engagement, the podcast emphasized the need for ongoing conversations and the relevance of the topics discussed. Storytelling emerged as a powerful tool for youth to convey their experiences and advocate for change. However, it was noted that young people need training in effective storytelling techniques to create sustainable stories that can resonate with a wider audience.
The intention behind storytelling should always be to bring about social change. The podcast suggested using different artistic forms such as comedy, poetry, and music to convey messages effectively. Vivian emphasized the importance of young people stepping out of their comfort zones and embracing storytelling as a powerful tool for civic change. Nabuguzi Kiwanuka highlighted the feminist movement as an example of how storytelling can influence change and emphasized the untapped potential young people possess in this regard. While storytelling is crucial, it becomes an agenda only when politics intersect with policies. Youth stories should not be misinterpreted and should have the potential to influence policy formulation and change. It is essential to reach the right touchpoints in mainstream media and engage in discussions on radio, roundtables, and social media platforms. Young people must learn how to communicate effectively, package their stories, and deliver their messages. This includes understanding the appropriate channels to use, the language to employ, and the art of selling their ideas effectively.
Dante emphasized the importance of protecting self-expression while carrying out civic engagement. While he encouraged youth to be expressive and to utilize their voices, he also stressed the need for responsible communication. There should be a balance between exercising the right to free speech and ensuring that it does not infringe upon the rights of others. Organizational skills were highlighted as crucial for effective civic engagement. Young people need to be organized and coordinated in their efforts to maximize their impact. Additionally, harnessing the power of diversity among youth leadership was identified as a way to make their voices more influential and effective.
The podcast participants emphasized the significance of expressing oneself through various art forms such as music, film, drawing, and more to effect civic change. Every voice holds immense responsibility and has the potential to influence others. The importance of utilizing personal strengths and talents to bring out individual voices and stories was emphasized by Vivian. Ruth highlighted the power that young people possess to bring about change in their communities. Embracing different forms of storytelling, such as documentation, was also encouraged as a powerful tool to influence change. Ultimately, the podcast shed light on the challenges faced by young people in Uganda when it comes to political engagement and civic spaces. It emphasized the need for a paradigm shift in how youth voices are represented and amplified in media and policy-making processes. Through effective storytelling and agenda-setting, young people have the potential to shape the narrative, influence policies, and contribute to the betterment of society. The podcast served as a reminder that every Ugandan, regardless of age, has a role to play in promoting civic engagement and addressing the issues that affect them. It urged young people to rise up, tell their stories, and advocate for change while encouraging society to listen and take action. By amplifying youth voices and embracing the power of storytelling, Uganda can move towards a more inclusive and participatory democracy.