Investing in youth in Malawi and Zambia


With populations in both Malawi and Zambia consisting of over 50 per cent young people, there is an increasing push among governments, development partners and civil society to recognize the specific needs and vulnerabilities of young people as well as their immense capacity to contribute positively to development. 


Two UNDEF projects are capitalizing on this momentum by focusing on building the capacity of young people to play a strengthened meaningful role in governance structures. The Malawi Human Rights Youth Network is working with member youth organizations and local government across all three regions of the country to strengthen partnerships and increase understanding. The project kicked off in December 2014 and January 2015 with a series of consultative meetings at regional level bringing together 60 youth leaders to develop a national level roadmap of priority issues and to discuss common challenges. Issues raised included a lack of funding available at council level to undertake youth related activities; lack of understanding of young people’s needs as genuine stakeholders and their potential; and conversely a lack of understanding among youth as to how they can effectively play a role in local government and a limited ability to undertake effective and constructive lobbying and advocacy. To help counter this, the second stage of the project has provided tailor-made practical training to select members of youth affiliate organizations on budgeting, leadership skills, structure and roles of councils. Each participant developed an advocacy action plan with their respective organization and provided cascade training to its own members.


Boosting the capacity of these young people and increasing spaces for dialogue is further envisaged via internships in local government, talk shows and advocacy via social media. MHYRN is also running issue-based sensitization campaigns to raise general public awareness on issues raised by the youth groups in the roadmap in the form of roadshows with theatre and dance.


Success story: An action plan developed by Malawi beneficy Youth Impact, following the UNDEF-funded training, focused on advocating inclusion of youth in local government structures. Following interface meetings with the District Council, the latter’s executive committee agreed on the importance of including a youth representative on the council and encouraged subsequent election. “It was my first time to learn about local governance during the training in March, said Cecilia Chivunga, Youth Impact’s Executive Director. “I thank MHRYN and UNDEF for the informative training, young people of Machinga are now actively engaging local leaders on development projects because they have been informed that they have a right to participate and a right to development.”

In Chipata, the Eastern region of Zambia, the UNDEF-funded project Good Governance and Accountability Promotion aims to strengthen youth participation in democratic processes in order to promote transparency, accountability and good governance. Through training on budget tracking and social audit exercises as well as leadership skills, youth-led civil society organizations are being empowered to monitor the use of constituency development funds and encouraged to create informed platforms among themselves. Implemented by the NGO Youth Development Foundation, the project raises awareness of communities on their rights and roles in holding duty-bearers accountable through civic awareness meetings, blogs and radio talk shows.