Malawi launches her first Youth Parliament
by Kusali Kubwalo
Lilongwe, 22 August 2012: Malawi today launched her first ever Youth Parliament at Parliament Building in Lilongwe. Speaking at the launch, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Chimunthu Banda, M.P. described the launch as a milestone in the quest for ensuring that the youth play a constructive role in the development of the country. Hon. Chimunthu Banda said the youth should not only be given the opportunity to be heard but should be taken seriously too.
“Why is it necessary for us to have a Youth Parliament? It is very important. Nothing should be done for young people without their input. If it is for them, it has to be with them,” explained The Speaker of Parliament.
Since 2002, Malawi has held the Children’s Parliament annually. Last year, Malawi decided to transition to a Youth Parliament in line with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s action plan. This move was also in line with the Malawi Parliament’s own strategic plan of 2010 – 2015.
The key challenge faced by the Children’s Parliament was the lack of linkage with the Malawi Parliament. This instutionalisation of the Youth Parliament in the National Assembly is therefore key to ensuring that resolutions follow through the proper legal processes and are implemented via the main Parliament.
UNICEF supported the children’s Parliament and has also provided financial and technical support to the Youth Parliament. Speaking at the launch, UNICEF Acting Representative, Pamela Oganga reiterated UNICEF’s commitment to the forum saying UNICEF recognizes that children’s voices cannot be left out if meaningful democracy and development are to be achieved.
“We believe that the best interests of the child are best served when children’s voices are heard and their opinions taken into account when national policies and decisions are made. The Youth Parliament therefore gives the young people of this country the opportunity to discuss, debate and pass decisions on important issues affecting their lives.”
The Parliamentarians have been drawn from Malawi’s 193 constituencies and were selected after a competitive process from over 1,900 applicants. Sixty eight percent of Malawi’s 13m population is made up of young people under the age of 24, according to the 2008 Census.
The Youth Parliament has already elected its leadership and its Speaker is 21 year old Dyson Maliro. He is a former volunteer at a UNICEF supported youth NGO, Active Youth Initiative for Social Enhancement (AYISE). Maliro urged his fellow Youth Parliamentarians to be disciplined and focused in -order to provide substantive input into the main parliament.
“We will apply ourselves fully into this role. We will ensure that we come up with resolutions that will result in policy change for the benefit of all young people in Malawi.”
The Youth Parliamentarians will serve a two year term and for this first session, will deliberate for three days. Resolutions from the Youth Parliament will be formally handed over to the Speaker of Parliament for deliberation at the main parliament meeting.