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Interview with Emmanuel Oluka, CEW-IT, Uganda

“We are doing things that are going to improve the lives of so many young people, and the young people are the future generation.“ says Emmanuel Oluka, ICT officer of the Ugandan partner organization CEW-IT, who visited the Netherlands in the framework of the pilot projects ‘Youth influencing the Policy Agenda’ (Youth Manifesto) and ‘Thematic Budget’ in Amsterdam from 27th of September till 7th of October. He also facilitated the workshop on the Afrikadag about Youth influencing the agenda.

What do you take with you after this exchange/learning week?

The E-Motive program on Deepening Democracy basically focused on three test projects: Youth influencing the agenda with the tool of Ushahidi, Budget monitoring led by Inesc (Brazil) and Follow the law led by Network Democratie (The Netherlands). All have been different learning experiences for me, because each of the projects in a way wants to build uniquely towards the concept of Deepening Democracy because the question of youth and unemployment within Uganda, The Netherlands and Brasil is very pertinent. Personally, I am really touched and passionate about it, because we are actually doing things that are going to improve the lives of so many young people, and the young people are the future generation. So if their future is secured, they have a source of income that will empower them to be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. They are tomorrow’s people who do great new things to change and improve their way of life. I think that is very amazing.

Of course there are laws of governments in the lives of people. In most cases people don’t understand these laws. So definitely the concept of the project Follow the law is quite critical and I think it is very important. Back in Uganda we used to see how the issue around laws present so many gaps as far as management of human lives is concerned. In Uganda where we piloted the project, the issue of land rights is very urgent, because people are losing land, and it’s a source of livelihood among the bigger population of Ugandans who live in the rural areas, so it is very vulnerable.

Bringing information to the citizens to understand the law is very important, because in Uganda there is a saying that ‘ignorance about the law has no defence’. So perhaps, if the information and the empowerment is given to the people, then they are likely to improve their way of thinking. We notice challenges around corruption, how are budgets controlled and how they are managed. I do feel that you even in democracy there is need to invest in doing more. From the statistics you see that projects have potential to make changes, not only in Uganda, but globally.  Each country brings on board a different perspective and dimension. In general perspective, all countries have more or less similar kind of challenges depending on their way of life.

What are you going to do differently in your work when you go home after this exchange?

I think, after listening to experiences from other countries and noticing that Uganda is not that different from other countries, it gives me a driving force and the driving passion to do more. To me it’s about passion and coming from a technology background of computer programming, I do think that using tools that are actually going to transform society are very important. If we can build tools that can change and improve livelihoods then we’ll have achieved our objective. If we can see society change within a period of time, then we know we are creating something great, changing the livelihood of people in the world.

The Ushahidi-platform was launched in Uganda a few months ago. What do you take with you after meeting the youth from the Netherlands?

Cewit has been working with Ushahidi for six years. We used Ushahidi for the youth project to bring youth to one forum so they can speak out as one united voice on issues that effect them. Youth in Uganda are organised into groups. We thought that this is one tool to bring on board to actually be able to aggregate and put together a youth manifesto for them. We have seen it working in Uganda in the last six months when we were testing the youth influencing the agenda model. Youth has raised information via SMS and social media that particularly effects them especially around the issue of employment. They have also given us alternative frameworks where they think the government can come and help them. We’ve put them together in the same room discussing with he different leaders on how they can address the question of unemployment. A tool like Ushahidi brings together the challenges the youth are facing and the leaders who are bringing issues on one framework is very powerful. They are discussing issues that effect them in their own respective communities. It allows the exchange of information on social media, through sms etc. in any language. Today it’s been amazing to share knowledge and expertise on this tool. I took Jonge Stemmen trough the use of the framework of the tool. This platform has great potential in terms of empowering the youth within the Netherlands on the question of unemployment. So far, it has been a pilot project. For the future a clear marketing strategy has to be included. It’s very critical to think how we can reach out and how to take the framework ahead.