Youth Engage with Government and Development Partners at the first U-reporter conference
© UNICEF Uganda
By Caroline Barebwoha
“It's men and women who are crazy enough to think they can change the world that actually do; you cannot be greater than what you think you can be.” This was part of the opening remarks made by Commissioner of Children and Youth Affairs, Mondo Kyateka at the opening of the 1st ever U-report Conference at Ndere Centre in Ntinda, Kampala District on 30th April.
Quoting Steven Paul Jobs (RIP) the American inventor best known as co-founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc. and pioneer of the personal computer revolution, Commissioner Kyateka stated the importance U-report - a UNICEF pioneer innovation - plays as a social monitoring tool for youth to keep track of development in Uganda.
“U-report taps into the views of the youth which ultimately helps in shaping the implementation of policies of the Government of Uganda,” he said.
The conference organized by UNICEF and its partners was attended by youth delegates representing each of the 80 districts, Members of Parliament, development managers from the European Union and even a soul singing youth group, known as Xabu. The main objectives of the conference were; to give the best U-reporters an opportunity to speak out on the issues that matter most within their communities, interact with stakeholders and explore what the youth can do, to ensure community change with meaningful participation.
During the conference, U-reporters had an opportunity to have a series of interactions with each other through group work sessions and presentations that focused on the role of U-reporters in their local communities, and taking U-report forward.
Hakim Owiny from Gulu encouraged all Ugandan youth to sign up for the programme and ignite change in their communities.
At the Question and Answer session moderated by the Chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children, Honourable Florence Mutyabule, the U-reporters had a rare opportunity to submit uncensored questions that ranged from service delivery to Government inactive policies and lack of governance. One of the questions asked was regarding the effectiveness of the Youth Fund and its rigid requirements.
In innovative style, the U-reporters were able to provide SMS feedback to the MPs on the measure of satisfaction of the responses.
U-reporters expressed their vision for the programme; to be engaged more meaningfully in advocacy efforts, policy decision-making and service delivery improvements. This conference was a first time opportunity for the best U-reporters in the country to meet at national level with stakeholders from the Government ministries and departments plus the development partners to discuss health, economic and development issues that affect young people in Uganda today.
The future is bright for the best U-reporters as UNICEF Uganda and its U-report partners ; Rwenzori Information Centre Network (RICENET) , Girls Education Movement (GEM), Church of Uganda, Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Uganda Catholic Secretariat, Uganda Scouts Association, BRAC Uganda, Uganda Girl Guides Association and others are formalizing the roles and responsibilities for the best U-reporters at district level .
Closing the conference, James Powell, the UNICEF U-report Project Manager thanked officials representing the Government of Uganda, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and development partners specifically the European Union. He paid special tribute to the legislative arm of Government – the Members of Parliament who are revolutionizing change, supporting innovative trends such as contributing to the social development debates on U-report.
“You are now a nationwide community of 120,000 U-reporters, you have the role and power to influence change in Uganda by actively being engaged at the grassroot level in recruiting other U-reporters and participating in developmental activities,” he concluded.