Citizens of Nauyo sub-county in Mbale city have applauded the work that Youth leaders under CEMCOD’s Youth Voices for Development project are doing in their communities

The Youth Voices for Development Project (YOVODE) gives youth leaders the chance to engage citizens and local leaders in direct interface meetings that provide a platform for youth and ordinary citizens to ask direct questions on issues that concern their own development.

The project has since last year trained 50 emerging leaders aged 19 -24 years within Mbale and Jinja, equipping them with leadership, communication, and community engagement skills.

Last week on Saturday, the youth were able to coordinate, mobilize and take charge of the community meeting in which they brought together local leaders and the citizens under one roof for a constructive engagement on issues affecting them.

Community members took turns to task their leaders to account, asking questions and seeking clarifications on issues they deemed developmental to their area.

Some of the issues included, clarifications on government funding for a newly designed grassroots program dubbed the “Parish development model” It was evident that local citizens who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the program had little or no knowledge about the program.

Another issue that featured prominently was the uncertainty around relief and food distribution to victims of the flooding in Mbale and the surrounding areas. Locals expressed concern that relief items were instead being given to relatives of leaders and some who were never affected while the real victims were left helpless. It is worth noting that this community meeting was held barely a week following heavy flooding caused by torrential rains in the Mbale area. The floods destroyed several houses, and gardens while local media reported that over 20 people lost their lives in the incident.

The community and leadership were both struggling to come to terms with the incident.

Other issues that featured in the meeting were poor garbage collection, insecurity, poor police response to citizens’ reports, school dropouts, negative attitudes from local leaders towards youth participation in leadership, the need for a Health Centre within the Nauyo area, and many more.

“We are happy that our youth are being kept busy and getting involved. This deters them from doing things of bad conduct. We thank CEMCOD and Step FM for this endeavor.” Asio Hellen, representative of the O/C police in Nauyo.

The other YOVODE key objective as well is ensuring citizens’ appreciation of young people as proactive development advocates. It was clear in this community meeting that the presence of our youth leaders and the way they articulated community issues they have worked to amplify, was well appreciated and applauded by not only the community members but also by the leaders present.

“I would like to encourage every youth leader who has been trained by Step FM and CEMCOD to come to me whenever they require clarification on any community issues. I will leave whatever I will be doing and attend to you. “Musa Kasaija, Speaker Industrial Division Mbale City.

The speaker was responding to concerns by the Community reporters that some of the local leaders were making it hard for them to report community stories by asking to be given money before they comment on issues.

Meanwhile, the leaders present found the community meeting a useful space to engage the community on challenges they themselves face in conducting their duties. They noted that the government was abdicating its duties to facilitating some government entities like the police family and child protection department that lack transport to respond to reported cases. They said this makes it seem like the police officers are negligent and inefficient regards the discharge of their duties. The concern followed a submission (directed to the representative of the O/C Police in attendance) by a community member who was frustrated when the police failed to respond to a case she had reported and instead demand that she facilitates them with fuel or transport.

Prossy Kawala, CEMCOD’s Project Coordinator says the community members were able to express themselves in the language they were comfortable in (Lugisu), which enhanced their active participation. She adds that the YOVODE project is supported by the US Mission in Uganda and implemented in partnership with local Radio Stations NBS FM in Jinja and Step FM in Mbale.

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