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Recounting the story of Damongo Youth Parliament in the light of International Youth Day Celebration

Feature Article Recounting the story of Damongo Youth Parliament in the light of International Youth Day Celebration
AUG 14, 2021 LISTEN

Background:

The United Nations General Assembly in its 1999 resolution 54/120 endorsed the recommendations made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon,8 to12 August,1998) that 12 August be designated as International Youth Day (IYD). The essence was to encourage youth around the globe to organize activities to raise awareness about the situation of youth in their country. This may include cultural, legal and policy issues and also, celebrate the potentials of youth as active partners in global society. The first ever International Youth Day was observed on 12 August, 2000.

The 2021 edition focuses attention on transforming food systems under the theme, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”, aimed at highlighting that the success of such a global effort will not be achieved without meaningful participation of young people.

As we celebrate this unique day, I wish to commend the gallant youth of Damongo and its environs and my fellow colleagues in the Damongo Youth Parliament (DYP) for how far we've come in the advocacy journey. It's no mean achievement and we collectively deserve a pat on the back for being part of the first ever experimental Youth Parliament to have been established across Ghana. Ayekoo!!!!

Down memory lane of the Damongo Youth Parliament (DYP):

Damongo Youth Parliament(DYP), incorporated, is a non-profit,non-sectarian, and non-partisan youth organisation whose mission is," to promote the development and empowerment of young people in Damongo and beyond in realising their full physical, social, economic, spiritual, and intellectual potentials as individuals and responsible citizens, and as members of their local, national and international communities.

The journey towards realising this mission started way back in June 2012 under the vision of one Ananpansah Bartholomew Abraham(AB),a youth advocate/online journalist and radio presenter with Radio for Peace and Development(95.1mhz), hereafter referred to as PAD FM in Damongo in the Savannah Region.

The opportunity for the pioneer Radio Station, PAD FM, which was then the only radio station operating in the entire Gonjaland, now Savannah Region to select one person to represent the youth of Gonjaland in implementing a two year project under the DW Akademie Crossing Borders (Denmark) project presented itself... And the radio station after a broader consultation settled on one Ananpansah Bartholomew Abraham who was then very passionate and enthused about youth development and advocacy. This offered young Ananpansah the opportunity to join a team of 11 other selected young men and women drawn across Ghana to converge in Accra to formally launch the two year project.

The Crossing Borders project was a Community Radio, Youth and Advocacy project with funding support from CISU (Civil Society Fund), Denmark in Germany which begun in 1999 and registered as a Civil Society Organization in 2004. It was a Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN)-Danish partnered project of which PAD FM was and is still a member of the Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN).

The focus of the two year project was to ensure youth empowerment and inclusion in decision making by using the media as a platform for youth participation, capacity building and leadership in order to gain a strong voice and strengthen Civil Society towards democratic and sustainable development of societies. One key focus of the project was the virtual launch of the Ghana Youth Manifesto(a call to action for youth empowerment in Ghana) on 12th August,2012, which coincided with the International Youth Day and thereafter, implement the actions in the youth manifesto.

A key aspect of the manifesto was, "Youth for Good Governance," "Voices of Youth" 2012 in which CB was the lead Danish partner and GCRN was the media implementing partner together with Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-Ghana).

After accepting the honour to represent the youth of Savannah in implementing such an important youth empowerment project, I assumed the role of a lead producer of the project and all youth programs both on air and off air at the radio station.

On return from Accra, I took lead in mobilizing like-minded youth and colleagues to virtually launch the Ghana Youth Manifesto on PAD FM on 12th August,2012. That historic day was a turning point and the dawn of a new day for advocacy, youth awakening, a call to action and active inclusion of youth in decision making. It was a whole new experience beyond classroom knowledge.

As a lead implementor/producer of the project and assuming the role of the head of youth programs at the Radio Station, I reflected soberly and to the glory of God firmly stumbled on the need to sustain the enthusiasm of the youth beyond the project implementation time scale (two years). This provided an opportunity to start organizing youth into clusters based on their various areas and inviting vibrant and articulate youth from each of these areas to the radio station to recount and critique the development challenges of their respective areas as well as peculiar issues affecting youth development. The program was under the name,"Youth and Advocacy" of which I was producing and hosting at the same.Such a herculian task,I guess

The radio program suddenly gathered momentum and became the most listened to and widely patronized program by the people within the catchment area of the radio station and beyond. The feedbacks were overwhelming and positive. Simply amazing and reflecting the wishes and aspirations of the community. Neglected Community challenges were given light and attended to by duty bearers,who hitherto would have remained adamant to such issues. We got a lot of concrete results through the contributions of panelists and listeners on the show. Then came the need to expand the youth and advocacy program beyond the various electoral areas into a model parliament that would still use the radio station and our air the which was then funded under the project to debate issues of youth and community interest. This became necessary and conception and after many youth expressed interest in participating in the radio discussion.

So in consultation with management, we started selecting debatable topics and inviting the various youth bases within the town to battle for ideas and bring out livelihood empowerment issues for the attention of duty bearers. It was yet another opened chapter that brought a lot of relief and motivation to the many voiceless in our communities.

At this point, the idea of formalising the radio debates and aggregating the varied youth voices into a unified advocacy body in the shape and form of a youth parliament readily came on hand. The radio through our program was used to call for a series of youth meetings, which were well attended by youth at the Jafo Primary School( It was biweekly meetings). The idea of the youth parliament was formally mooted by my very self as the lead producer and adopted by the whole house somewhere in November 2012 from one of those meetings,but actual advocacy started after the 2012 elections.

Infact,as at that time,we were the only existing youth parliament in the whole of Ghana, eventhough,we didn't have a well organised structure.

The leadership of the infant Youth Parliament was constituted through nomination with Mumuni Mohammed now the presiding member of the West Gonja Municipal Assembly serving as the Coordinator, Samuel Mahama Dinkeri, proprietor of Amazing Grace Academie as Deputy Coordinator; Ananpansah Bartholomew Abraham, now Assemblyman for the Canteen Electoral Area as Secretary; Abdulai Nuhu Zulka, a renowned journalist as Deputy Secretary; madam Hannah Heity, a nurse as Women's Commissioner; Mumuni Yahaya, now NDC communications Officer for Damongo constituency as Organizer; Abdul Fatawu now with Electoral Commission as Deputy Organizer, Mr. Ali, a teacher and active Unit Commitee Member for Hangaline was the nominated the Treasurer and Adamu Z. Shaibu, former Assemblyman for Zongo/Langbonto was his deputy; Saaka Karim (Lotic), now headmaster for Kabangepe school was settled on as the Public Relations Officer. We also had Council of elders and advisors directing the steps of the executive board. So, we were good to go and the world was ready for our action.

At the end of the two year project, it was now time for evaluation and accountability,so I was invited back to Accra. Damongo based PAD FM and its lead producer stood out among the many radio stations as having been able to do something unique with the project, formulation and inauguration of a youth parliament called the Damongo Youth Parliament (DYP), a record we hold to date.

I got the singular opportunity through diligence and dedication to once again be elected the Secretary of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), an international non-governmental organization serving the community radio movement, with almost 4000 members and associates in 150 countries. A position I hold to date since no new election has been held yet. I was also awarded an International Certificate in Community Radio Youth and Advocacy from the DW Akademie, Germany. Throughout the evaluation workshop, my name changed from Ananpansah B. Abraham to professor with station managers and facilitators ascribing that title of a ceremonial honour to me, I pray to get there though. It was a sign of a bigger calling towards responsibilities for me as a young advocate then. So there was nothing like rejoicing aside reflecting on new ideas for the future.

It was indeed, a very challenging and refreshing experience over the period.

After the evaluation and in recognition of the good works we were collectively doing, we had the rare honour of receiving a renowned former British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC) presenter in Damongo who was sent on a mission to understudy the Damongo Youth Parliament and see for himself how things were being done in the parliament for further reporting. The former BBC reporter was full of commendations for such a unique initiative, encouraging us to keep it up! (see pictures as the first comment).

Past works:

Prior to the 2016 general elections, the Damongo Youth Parliament held its first ever parliamentary debate and invited all the parliamentary candidates to tell the youth their plans towards youth and Community development. The debate which overly successfully took place at the Damongo Lorry station somewhere in November 2016 and made tremendous impact in shaping policy and informing decision making during, before and after the polls.see: https://ananpansah-ab.blogspot.com/2016/11/damongo-youth-parliament-holds_21.html

Damongo Youth Parliament (DYP) has been at the forefront in the fight against the twin evils of logging and commercial charcoal burning in Gonjaland, a canker that has eaten deep into the future sustainability of our land and forest resources and making farming unattractive. We are the only youth group on record to have taken civil action on the twin evils. See: https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Damongo-youth-embark-on-civil-action-544001 as first comment.

The child inimical game called "Kolom" was brought to an end in West Gonja Municipal, and the supposed license of the Chinese who brought the game were operating with got revoked by the then Assembly led by honourable Ali. See: https://ananpansah-ab.blogspot.com/2016/08/damongo-youth-parliament-decries-child.html .

Damongo Youth Parliament after the creation of the Savannah Region led a successful first ever biggest demonstration to kick against the untested experiment of scattering Regional departments of the Savannah Regional Coordinating Council. See: https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Savannah-youth-protest-against-decision-to-disperse-regional-departments-860122 .

Our recent effort led to the revocation of the permit of Zagos Wood Processing Factory,a Chinese Wood Factory located at Yipala in the West Gonja District.

We've done a lot and succeeded a lot in our advocacy story that cannot be recounted in this single story. We continue to remain strong and united behind the common goal of youth and community development.

Our radio program is still very active, running and impactful. We have had to battle with financial challenges in effectively mobilising the youth for our activities and in fighting the ills of society.

It's our hope that Civil Society Organizations,donar agencies and like minded individuals would partner and support our advocacy journey in our bid to stand for society without compromising our core mandate. When empowered,the world from our corner can be made a better place for all,where leaders would be held accountable and youth voices heard in decision making at every level of governance.

Damongo Youth Parliament (DYP): what are we?

The vision of Damongo Youth Parliament (DYP); Vision Statement: Towards an Empowered Youth and Community.

Mission Statement: Motivated by our creator, Damongo Youth Parliament, incorporated is a non-profit,non-sectarian, and non-partisan youth organisation whose mission is," to promote the development and empowerment of young people in Damongo and beyond in realising their full physical, social, economic, spiritual, and intellectual potentials as individuals and responsible citizens, and as members of their local, national and international communities."So help us God!

Through;

Method for achieving mission: The method for achieving this mission is by creating a space for youth dialogue, active participation in the decentralisation process,and building very resolute relationships between the youth and relevant stakeholders,central government,local authorities, NGO's, development partners and the general public.

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