The third roundtable discussion on Women in Politics 2016 focused on youth participation on the 2 March.
The panellists of the third discussion were Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio – Acting CEO of the Office of the Electoral Commissioner (OEC) – Mema Motusaga – Senior Officer for Women Projects (MWCSD), Kaisarina Salesa and Tuala Victor Va’auli – Programme Coordinators of the Samoa National Youth Council (SNYC).
The discussion focused on the topic of youth participation in the Samoa national elections which took place on March 4 2016.
According to Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, “Youth participation in the general elections is crucial for our country because the majority of our population probably lies in the youth age group so the decision making processes at the national level will have a huge impact on them. So if they don’t register and vote, they won’t have that opportunity to express how those issues should be addressed by our political leaders in terms of designing laws and policies that will ensure and reflect youth interests.”
Prof Meleisea Malama Meleisea, Director of CSS and facilitator of the roundtable discussion agreed, “ that the low registration of young people is a very serious concern. Figures suggest that young people feel isolated and unengaged in the political dialogue and process. A lot more work needs to target youth and make them feel excited to be voters and their opinions matter. Existing institutions at village, government and the private sector should foster young people’s participation in their places of work, schools, churches and villages councils.”
Ms. Kaisarina Salesa, of the Samoa National Youth Council pointed out that, “Registered youth are encouraged to vote in the upcoming general elections without fear of reprisals from their families or church affiliations. The right to vote is an important right as it is a time where youth are able to actively have a say on who should be in Government. Given the massive awareness campaigns issued by the Office of the Electoral Commission, SNYC through its Village Youth Representatives have reminded and emphasized to its members that come the general elections, they will be part of a national decision making process by choosing to vote of their own free will on who should represent them and their village at the parliament level”.
The roundtables are part of a project to increase political participation of Women in Samoa (IPPWS), sponsored by UN Women and UNDP, in collaboration with the Centre for Samoan Studies at NUS.