USAID's Ramp UP-South
Young men and women discuss ideas at a forum in Zaranj
In a first for southern Afghanistan, a month-long program of youth forums gave hundreds of young Afghans the chance to discuss citizenship and governance and ways to make their municipal authorities more representative and more responsive. USAID’s Regional Afghan Municipalities Program for Urban Populations (RAMP UP) South worked closely with the mayors of Kandahar, Lashkar Gah, Qalat, Tirin Kot, Nili and Zaranj to organize the forums, which drew about 600 people.
The young people expressed cautious optimism about the future but added that a lot depended on the authorities’ ability to provide community services and expand educational opportunity. They voiced concern about corruption and its impact on communities. Overwhelmingly, they expressed the desire to take part in community development work, but noted that opportunities to do so were rare. One young woman in Kandahar said, “Today was the first time that the municipality has listened to our opinions and ideas, and the first time that they are explaining municipal services to us.” Added Sulaiman, a 20-year-old student from Tirin Kot, “If the municipality asks the youth their ideas, our role could be 100 per cent positive. The current disorder is because the lack of youth involvement in government allows youth to engage in unlawful activities.”
The initiative is important because local authorities increasingly need to engage with young Afghans in order to provide responsive and accountable governance. Two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population is less than 25 years old and they can play a significant role in shaping the future of their communities. RAMP UP-South’s work with the mayors is focused on developing activities and outreach events to encourage youth participation in local governance. The project encourages a special focus on girls’ involvement in community decision-making because restrictive cultural practices have limited such chances for them.
Each forum collated survey responses and recorded the principal conclusions of the discussions. The data will be analyzed and used by each municipal authority to identify young people’s needs and priorities.
Young Afghans Speak Their Minds