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31.08.2023 Article

Changing the narrative: Elevating Our Roles as Young People in Liberian Politics: Beyond Jabs and Pocket Money in Politics

By Syvanna Gbollie
Changing the narrative: Elevating Our Roles as Young People in Liberian Politics: Beyond Jabs and Pocket Money in Politics
31.08.2023 LISTEN

In a rapidly changing world, the role of young people has never been more critical. Yet, too often, our involvement in politics is reduced to throwing jabs at one another and seeking pocket money from politicians. It's time for a paradigm shift. It is time for young people to recognize the immense potential they hold and explore more impactful ways to engage in the political process. It is time to change the narrative, our roles as young Liberians extend far beyond mere rhetoric and financial gain – they encompass shaping policies, driving change, and securing a brighter future (our future).

While spirited debate is essential for a thriving democracy, the practice of throwing jabs at one another rarely leads to meaningful change. Over the past years, Liberia has witnessed successive election cycles marked by the unfortunate trend of politicians exploiting our differences, using us as pawns to create unrest in our nation. This pattern has persisted for far too long. Rather than succumbing to personal attacks where the daughters of John are fighting the Queens of Peter, we must redirect our energy towards constructive conversations. Instead of becoming instruments of discord, we can be champions of informed discourse. Instead of resorting to physical confrontations and insults, why not engage in well-informed discussions concerning policy matters and the solutions that our respective parties propose to address the challenges our communities face? These types of meaningful conversations hold the power not only to nurture comprehension but also to lay the foundation for cooperative problem-solving even beyond the elections.

Chasing after politicians for pocket money has never helped us as young people, it perpetuates a cycle of dependency and undermines the integrity of the political process. This approach treats elected positions as commodities, where politicians invest in our support during elections only to yield returns afterward. This might explain why Liberian politicians seem to neglect their constituents after being elected. It has reduced the influence of young voices to mere transactions, leaving us unable to hold leaders accountable as we were essentially "bought" during elections. As aspiring leaders it is time to change the trajectory, our worth should be measured by the quality of our ideas and the depth of our engagement. We must reject the notion that our value lies in financial gain and instead focus on advocating for policies that uplift our communities.

The true power of young people lies in their ability to influence policy decisions. By engaging in informed advocacy, we can push for policies that address issues we care about – from education reform to environmental protection and social justice. For instance, in the US, Young people made their mark on the 2020 presidential election with a likely historic level of youth voter turnout and impact on key races that helped decide the outcome. According to an exclusive new post-election survey from CIRCLE, more than three-quarters of young people believed that they had the power and responsibility to change the country and that this work goes beyond elections. As we find ourselves amidst the election season, reflecting on our beliefs as young individuals is important. Do we consider it our duty to enact positive change for our nation through our vote, or do we prioritize personal gain? While the immediate benefits might seem enticing, it's crucial to remember that these gains won't shape our next six years. Let's not sacrifice our future for temporary gratification.

Instead of fixating solely on short-term gains and personal advantages, why not channel our efforts into contributing to political campaigns? This approach could serve as a strategic means to exert influence and control over post-election decisions, given that we are significant stakeholders in the political process. By altering this paradigm, politicians would be compelled to remain accountable to us beyond just the election cycle.

Consider the example of the 2020 US elections, where young people made substantial contributions to campaigns. Approximately 24% of youth donated to campaigns, while 23% registered others to vote. Moreover, 45% attempted to persuade their peers to vote, and a significant two-thirds engaged in conversations about the election and politics with friends. This demonstrated a powerful engagement by the youth, prompting politicians to consider their perspectives and concerns more actively. Adopting a similar approach here in Liberia during these election periods could usher in a transformative change. By actively participating, contributing, and engaging with the political process, young people can become catalysts for driving accountable governance and ensuring that the voices of the youth are heard and heeded.

Reflecting on various conversations I've had with numerous young people since the commencement of election activities, a concerning trend emerges: the lack of substantial motivation behind their support for specific candidates. Engaging in countless interactions, I've posed a crucial question: What drives their allegiance? Unfortunately, a significant portion of voters in Liberia remains without a clear answer. Thousands are unable to articulate a meaningful rationale for their party preference. Love, personal gain, and a sense of entitlement to constitutional term limits have emerged as the primary motivations.

To shift this narrative, it's imperative for young people to foster motivations that prioritize the nation above individual interests. A notable example can be drawn from the 2020 US elections, where racial justice served as a compelling motivation for many young voters. 68% were driven by the desire to combat violence against people of color, 56% actively discussed the impact of racism on society with peers, and 57% undertook actions for racial justice within their communities.

As we approach the impending election day on October 10th, it's crucial to ask ourselves: What transformative impact will my vote bring? If the party or candidate you support fails to offer a substantial response to this question, it's prudent to reconsider. Let's cast our votes not merely out of emotion, but to effect positive change for our country. By aligning our motivations with the greater good, we, as young people, can play a pivotal role in steering Liberia towards a more promising future.

To make effective decisions, we must educate ourselves about politics and essential policy matters as young individuals. This equips us to engage in informed discussions, ask critical questions, and demand accountability. By understanding governance intricacies, we can advocate for policies that align with our values and benefit society. Our involvement in politics as young people goes beyond elections; we must engage consistently for lasting impact. This requires a sustained commitment to driving positive change, focusing on systemic solutions, and prioritizing the country’s interests. Through our efforts, we can leave a legacy and ensure a brighter future for generations. The potential of young people is limitless, and our roles in politics extend beyond rhetoric and short-term gains.

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