The Parliament of Sierra Leone has inaugurated the Young Members of Parliament Caucus (Young MPs Caucus) as part of its efforts to increase the quantitative and qualitative participation of young people in the parliament. The inauguration of the youth caucus is an affirmation of the parliament’s commitment in addressing the issue of youth underrepresentation and low citizens participation in parliamentary activities. The youth caucus will serve as a strategic entry point for young Sierra Leoneans to engage the parliament on governance issues. The caucus will also provide a veritable platform for enhancing the capacity of young MPs in the Parliament of Sierra Leone through peer learning, constituent’s engagements and training opportunities.
The inauguration was preceded by the constitution of the leadership for the caucus. The following young MPs were elected as leaders of the caucus;
1. Hon Alhassan Kamara – Chairman
2. Hon. Paran Umar Tarawally – Deputy Chairman
3. Hon. Bashiru Silikie – Secretary
4. Hon Kerefallah Conteh – Deputy Secretary
5. Hon. Dauda Kallo – PRO
6. Hon Lahai Marrah – Financial Secretary
Establishing the youth caucus is a component of the Young Legislators Accountability Project (YLAP) being implemented by the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). The YLAP project is designed to enhance legislative accountability through effective citizen’s participation whilst building a cohesive young legislators hub for political mentorship, peer learning and capacity development. In enhancing accountability and citizen participation in legislative activities, the project seeks to strengthen the linkage between young electorates and young legislators in Africa.
YLAP was first launched in Nigeria in 2015 and since then the project has achieved remarkable success in enhancing the capacity of young legislators in the parliament as well as utilizing the political space in the legislature to advance youth agenda. The project has succeeded in creating viable space for legislators to engage constituents in an effective and efficient manner. The #YLAPSL will be formally launched in Freetown in the month of April 2016 after a learning visit to Nigeria by officials of the youth caucus from the Parliament of Sierra Leone.
The creation of a platform for young parliamentarians in Sierra Leone comes at a time the Inter-Parliamentary Union reports that young people continue to be chronically under-represented in the world’s parliaments. This revelation was contained in its 2016 Youth Participation in National Parliaments report. The report reveals that young people under 30 make up less that 2 percent of the world’s members of parliament. 30 percent of the world’s single and lower houses of parliament have no members aged under 30. Male parliamentarians tend to outnumber their female counterparts in every age category although the gender imbalance is less pronounced amongst younger MPs. Notwithstanding; recent elections have seen a global trend towards more young MPs aged under 45. Ecuador, Finland, Norway and Sweden are the only parliaments in the world where more than 10 percent of members are under the age of 30. More than 80 percent of MPs in the upper house of the parliament of Bhutan are aged under 45. In Africa, only Kenya is reported to have the highest proportion of MPs aged under 40 in upper house of parliament.
Networks of young parliamentarians and youth caucuses have proven to be useful tools for addressing the challenge of youth underrepresentation and under-engagement in formal politics. This explains the increasing number of caucuses and platforms for young parliamentarians across the globe. In Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya lead other African parliaments in establishing institutionalized forums for young parliamentarians. With this development, the Parliament of Sierra Leone has joined the league of youth-friendly parliaments in the world promoting inclusive parliaments in line with #Agenda2030 Youth leading the way, leaving no one behind.