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How I Can be an Advocate for Youth Empowerment

2015-2016 Youth Think Tank Member, Hilda Namakula, on her experience

In partnership with Restless Development, the 2015-2016 MasterCard Foundation Youth Think Tank consists of 15 young women and men between the ages of 15-24 from across East Africa. What unites them is a commitment to contributing to their communities and understanding the challenges and opportunities facing young people as they enter the labour market. This is one of their stories.

I was born and raised in the Kawempe slums, the biggest slum in Uganda. I am passionate about my country and believe that Uganda will be better when youth are empowered. I am inquisitive and eager to learn, while at the same time I want to contribute solutions to challenges around me. I applied to be part of the Youth Think Tank because it was an opportunity to be a part of the solution to unemployment in my country.

Having grown up in a slum, I have observed first-hand the disempowerment that comes with youth unemployment. Through this experience, I knew I could be part of the solution by gaining an in-depth understanding to this problem and being a voice for youth in my country.

I sought to improve my understanding of youth engagement and empowerment, the economic opportunities available to youth, why it is so hard to access them, what can be done to increase their access and develop evidence-based interventions from a youth perspective.  Additionally, I was eager to interact with policymakers to understand current policies, their proposed solutions and how they relate to the challenges faced by youth. Lastly I wanted to share this knowledge with the whole world as an advocate for youth empowerment.

As part of the Youth Think Tank, I learned how to conduct research, ranging from formulating research questions, collecting and analyzing data, validating findings and report writing. I gained community mobilization, engagement and communication skills and an understanding of the local governance and delivery of social services in Uganda. It was empowering to interact with key stakeholders in Uganda, including Community Service Organizations (CSOs), the government and the private sector, that are working hard to support youth.

With my new-found skills, I am able to research, document and advocate for youth-friendly policies such as creating employment symposiums or fairs and youth social protection programs that would provide unemployment benefits, social security and workers’ compensation.

My vision is for an unemployment free Africa. I am considering going for further studies to attain a Master’s degree in sociology, or social policy to further learn more about the dynamics of human behaviour and our society in order to find solutions that can create decent work for all.

Read the 2015-2016 Youth Think Tank report