Engaging youth in community development

For young people to be involved in social and economic issues, they must first have the knowledge and information to contribute to the conversation.

That’s Ali Kaviri’s philosophy. Ali is a young Ugandan man who is giving youth across Uganda the platform, skills, and connections to take part in the national and international dialogue about issues that affect them.

Ali’s involvement in youth activism began when he attended Kyambogo University in Kampala, receiving a degree in community-based rehabilitation. During his studies, he created a toolkit to track violence against women in politics.

In 2013, Ali participated in DOT Uganda’s one-year youth leadership program, which equips university and college graduates with facilitation, coaching, technology, and communication skills. With these essential tools, youth leaders can return to their communities and impact their peers.

“The program sowed the seeds of critical thinking, creativity, and positive outlook regarding ICT, business, micro-enterprise development, and gender issues, and looked at how they affect development in our communities,” Ali says.

While working as a digital champion and community leader with DOT Uganda, Ali became aware of how little his peers were involved in making the decisions that directly impacted their lives. Working with fellow young leaders and community members, he started to form an idea for the future.

“We began looking beyond our lens to see the real issues in the community,” Ali says. “There were issues that were not being addressed: domestic violence, political accountability – lots of things besides unemployment. We started to wonder: what can we do?”

Once that question had been posed, it couldn’t be unasked. Ali soon spent every spare moment brainstorming what could be done to help youth in his community.

Collaborating his peers, an answer came: start a community organization to empower young people in Uganda to engage directly with issues in their community.

The outcome was the Youth Equality Centre (YEC), a social enterprise founded by Ali, Jackline Cherotich, and other DOT Uganda youth leaders in late 2013.

YEC empowers young people in the country with self esteem, communication, technology, entrepreneurship, and life skills. The goal is to have more youth – especially women – reach a point where they can take on leadership and entrepreneurial roles in society.

“We want to amplify youth voices in areas of leadership, sexual health, and gender issues, so young people can participate in the development of these areas,” Ali says.

In less than two years, YEC has reached hundreds of youth in urban and rural Uganda. It will reach hundreds more with its latest initiative, a web and mobile app that provides young people access to timely, quality sexual reproductive health and family planning information and services are that culturally, socially and legally appropriate.

“The team I started YEC with are all connections I made through DOT Uganda. There is togetherness and encouragement that comes as being part of the youth leadership program,” Ali says. “We spent so much time brainstorming how we could make sure we were still collaborating and doing amazing things after the program was done.”

The YEC doesn’t wait for youth to come to them, and instead goes where their peers are. They conduct school outreach, use mobile devices to coach, train, and connect with youth, attend university dialogues and debates, and engage in peaceful advocacy days. By making the organization visible to young people, they hope a mindset shift can finally start to occur.

I discovered leadership is the ultimate
driving force behind every activity in our community.
I also realized that you do not have to own much in order to make a difference, but rather you must be creative in your thinking and have the strong will to foster that change.

Are you our next Community Leader, Digital Champion, or Social Innovator? Learn more about how to join #DOTYouth

Join #DOTYouth

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