The event took place at John S. Varfley Public School situated in Kingsville Number 7 rural Montserrado County and brought together over 250 students aged between 18 to 24 years old. It was held under the theme: “Civic Participation and Leadership: How to Make Liberia the Country We Want?”
Lisa Ljungstrom, Dominique Gorska and Adam Olssson from Folke Barnadotte Academy—a Swedish peace, security and development agency alongside other special guests including the administration of John S. Varfley Public School and members of the fourth estate participated in the launch.
The Swedish team from Folke Barnadotte Academy used the occasion to deliver an inspirational speech and motivated Liberians especially young people and first-time voters to participate in the upcoming elections. They stressed the need for young people to take the lead in civic engagement efforts and actively educate Liberians about their constitutional rights and civic responsibilities.
Delivering the inspirational message, Adam Olssson expressed profound gratitude to YES for the invitation. Olssson pointed out that the Folke Barnodotte Academy team visiting Liberia was excited to listen and learn from young Liberians as well as meet with the youth of Liberia.
0lssson asserted that young people are faced with a lot of challenges, but at the same time according to him, young people present many creative and credible solutions to these challenges, and their voices need to be heard.
“This year is a special year for Liberia, and young people have an opportunity to contribute to a peaceful and democratic transition of power – the first in many years. We encourage all young people to take that chance” Olsson stated.
Speaking earlier, Stephen B. Lavalah, Founder & Executive Director of YES indicated that no matter how frustrated Liberians are in the leadership and governance system, the only way to change it is to wake-up, shake-up and stand-up to participate in the 2017 elections.
“Every eligible Liberian holds the power to make Liberia the country we want by registering and voting in the elections. We should no longer allow ourselves to be trucked, brought for t-shirts, pseudo development, short-term scholarship, and small money. Let us properly evaluate the character, competence, experience and qualification of the various candidate” the youth leader noted.
Lavalah continues: “This is our time to reasonable commit to the values and principles of democracy. It is our moment to put Liberia first above our selfish ambition. It is our era to make the change we are long being yarning for by participating in the upcoming elections. We cannot afford to be left behind, we must seize this opportunity to ensure our voices are heard, our desires are met and our potential are realized.”
The team leader of YES emphasized that for far too long young people in Liberia has been branded unserious, trouble maker, destructive, violent, lazy and burdensome. He said the time have come for young people to rewrite their stories and rethink about their future and avoid being used by politicians to carry out violent activities before, during and after elections.
Lavalah urged young people and other segment of the population to exercise their rights and responsibilities in a more peaceful, informed and effective manner. He admonished Liberians to utilize the courts and other alternative dispute resolutions to resolve electoral conflict instead of engaging into violent protest and mob justice that have the propensity to cause instability.
“As young people, we shouldn’t allow yourself to be used by politicians and political parties to disturb the already fragile peace. We have a responsibility to ensure our country is safe and peaceful. We must work together irrespective of our political affiliation, religion, status, and county of origin. It is onto to us to end the long human suffering, extreme poverty, and deplorable road condition, dreadful healthcare and messy education” the youth leader noted.
Our Votes, Our Future project involves and inspires young people (aged 18 to 35) as well as women and girls through the setting up of Community Action Team that will engage in school-based Democracy Education Club, community-driven Town Hall Meeting, market-oriented Democratic Roadshow, neighbor-based Peer-to-Peer Mentorship, and community-centered Door Knocking Activities.
It utilizes civic education and community engagement approaches to address the greatest social, political, environmental and economic barriers affecting youth, women, and girls in civic participation and leadership. The strategic outcomes of the project is to strengthen youth mobilization and negotiation skills and nurture civic education alongside peace pedagogy among 1,000 direct beneficiaries and 5,000 indirect beneficiaries.