The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Office in Sierra Leone has just concluded series of meetings with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups, aimed at engaging them towards playing a proactive role in the next elections, and in addressing the issue of youth employment.
Speaking at the separate meetings at UNDP’s head office in Freetown, the UNDP Country Director, Bernard Mokam, described the organizations as “crucial partners in development, whose contribution to the national agenda cannot be understated.”
Speaking on the upcoming local council elections scheduled to take play in July; the NGO representatives raised their concerns for greater female participation in the electoral process. They called on UNDP and other stakeholders involved in the electoral process to mobilize female candidates and to prepare them to face the challenges of the elections.
The UNDP Country Director expressed the concern of the UN organization regarding the low participation of women in the electoral process, and urged the women to act as ‘agents for change’. “Focus”, he said, “now needs to be concentrated on mobilizing women above 18 years to go out and register to vote, and to encourage these women to vote for the female candidates.”
On issues around youth unemployment, the UNDP Country Office discussed with key stakeholders and CSOs on future possibilities of improving the youth unemployment crisis. CSO representatives expressed their concerns over the lack of a Youth Commission for Sierra Leone, to which UNDP reassured them that the Government as already scheduled a meeting on 6 May to address this issue.
UNDP assured participants at the meeting that their concerns would be relayed to Government in due course. Mr Mokam encouraged the organizations to “be proactive in addressing their concerns and other issues that affect public life.”
These two meetings marked the beginning of a series of relationship-building encounters planned between UNDP, the Government and civil society, to address issues of joint critical concern for the development of Sierra Leone.