In a round table discussion, youth and local leaders discuss whether they are partners

By. Eric Birori

Despite promising framework for youth engagement and policies, there is a remaining gap in partnership between youth and local leaders in community development. However, youth participation is vital to their own development as well as within their communities.

Never Again Rwanda through the ‘Inzira Nziza’ project, organized a round table discussion that brought together 50 participants including 11 leaders from Save sector, 20 youth trained under Inzira nziza project and 20 youth representatives from all 5 cells.

The aim of this discussion was to bring together youth and local leaders in order to foster positive collaboration amongst youth, and devise  strategies ensuring that local government decisions are informed by youth priorities which are vital to achieving national development.

The round table discussion was generally marked by lively debate and diverging points of view, identifying challenges faced by youth and how to address them, while also finding new ways to help them to achieve their goals.

One of the key issues that emerged was the behavior of some local leaders who push youth back in the decision-making processes of their community.

Iradukunda Betty from Gatoki, affirmed that leaders and adults sometimes hinder youth from participating in community development.

“Previously, we started a new idea in our cell aimed at gathering together our peers in ‘Guide Movement’, the intent was to help girls in behavioral change. One of the challenges we faced was that parents refused to let their children join, today we are 70 within the group”.

She added that after the discussion they will try to increase the number of members by convincing parents to support their ideas.

Bernard Ndagijimana from Shyanda cell npted that youth need to work together in groups, clubs and cooperatives, because when they raise a voice together it helps them to be heard.

Kamenyi Edmond. Social Affairs Officer of Save sector, emphasized that both youth and leaders need to work together, and that will help leaders to respect and have confidence in youth.

“I advise them to work hand in hand with leaders and to be active in decision making and community development. When an opportunity comes you automatically remember someone who is active.  After this round table discussion youth are no longer stakeholders or on the opposite side in our sector, but they become our partners”.

Hategekimana Jean Baptiste, Inzira Nziza coordinator at Never Again Rwanda, mentioned that local leaders need to make use of the youth’s potential in community development, but he also called on youth to remember that their rights will never come as a gift because they need to work hard, raise their voices, and play their role in the decision making processes.

Lesson Learnt testimony

Iraguha Delphine is a beneficiary of the Inzira Nziza project, and a student of University of Rwanda, Huye campus. She shared the lessons learnt from the round table discussion.

What I have learnt is that I’m not a stakeholder but a planner and partner to the local leaders. Before attending Never Again Rwanda’s sessions, I had never been active in sharing my point of view and I was not interested in issues that matter to youth because I didn’t believe that my ideas could have a positive impact in my community.

As a woman, I thought that I could not comment or give any input on anything leaders said unless I was assured that my opinion would be heard.

It is my rights and duty to raise my voice to what I think should be done in my community because I knew I’m the zest of good change. The attitude of being shy and unconfident has to end. Now I represent my fellow young Rwandans and I’m ready to represent them.


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