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Thursday, May 3, 2012

AMPLIFYING YOUTH VOICES FOR COMMUNITY CHANGE

U-Report is one of the most innovative ways of engaging young people, it has helped in informing Government of the key issues affecting the youth and also provided solutions that can be undertaken to address them. This has made our work as Ministry a lot easier. As Ministry and as Government we are proud of the U-reporters’ work”, thus remarked Mondo Kyateka, the Commissioner for children and youth affairs.
Hon. Mondo mentioned this at a one day conference for U-reporters at Ndere Center in Ntinda, Kampala on 30.04.2012.
 Clad in purple T-shirts, and blue U-report Tags hanging gracefully along their necks, the smart, brilliant and excited U-reports gathered for the first U-report Conference ever.
The conference that was by organized by UNICEF brought together approximately 100 top U-reporters, Members of Parliament and other UNICEF partners like Scouts Association of Uganda, RIC-NET, GEM, BRAC, Church of Uganda and BOSCO among others.
The purpose of the Conference was to create a platform where the youth (Ureporters) can meet together with stakeholders from Government and the Diplomatic core to discuss issues that affect them.

Opening the Conference, Hon. Mondo noted that the Ministry of Gender has an asset based strategy that looks at young people as part of the solution to the development problems that they (young people) face. He said “this is because they (youth) know their problems better and can identify solutions to them..thus the routine question and answer exercise done by the  U-reporters has served to supplement this strategy”.
Mondo also challenged the youth to be pro-active and relevant people in society. Saying they should stand to do something that they will be remembered for. The enthusiastic Commissioner further told the youth that most people who have impacted on society have done so during their youthful days citing Jesus, Mohamed and Steve Jobs as examples. “If you have nothing to live for, find something to die for, be that U-reporter that will change society for the better”, Mondo roared.
Finally he thanked the U-reporters for their views and answers about the situation of the youth in the country saying their concerns provided guidance into the Youth policy that has been under review and due for launch on 12th Aug.2012 (National Youth Day). 
Other dignitaries at the Conference were Honorable Members of Parliament; Hon. Kyakweri Lydia Woman Member of Parliament Kweni District, Hon. Rwabuhoro Flavia Woman Member of Parliament Kyegegwa District, Hon. Florence Mutyabula Woman Member of Parliament, Namutumba District, Hon. Acheng Ruth Woman Member of Parliament, Kole District, Hon. Kiwana Godfrey Subi, Member of Parliament, Mityana North, and Hon. Dorothy Woman Member of Parliament, Kamwenge District.
In their interaction with the Honorable Members of Parliament the U-reporters sought to understand several things from the MPs, key among others were; what the biggest challenge in fighting corruption is for the leaders, what steps they have done to address corruption and what motivation they would give the youth to do so. Secondly the youth also inquired of the MPs what they were doing to address youth issues in their constituencies.
Responding to the corruption questions raised, the honorables acknowledged that the biggest challenge in the fight against corruption is with the definition of corruption, exclaiming that most times it is either broadened or narrowed hence making it difficult to deal with. They noted that there is need to have the definition put out clear first if the fight against corruption must be effective.
The MPs also asserted that continuous sensitization of the masses on the ills of corruption is necessary for it would help in changing people’s attitude towards corruption as a cool life style. In emphasis, Hon. Acheng Ruth called upon the Youth/U-reporters to join the 9th parliament to expose and end corruption, “let us say to corruption, you must end with our generation and never trickle to the next one”! Ruth appealed.
Adding to this, Hon. Kiwana Godfrey Subi noted that as youths, the only aspiration in life should be to succeed but first they need to prepare for it and live good lives for everything that success brings requires to find one prepared and in good health.
During the conference, U-reporters were engaged in a series of activities; interactions with each other since they were meeting for the first time, group works where they discussed various issues like how they have used U-report to change their societies, the challenges they face, what can be done to keep U-reporters motivated and the mandate of U-report district delegates among others.
The U-reporters were also treated to breathe taking Music interludes by Xabu Music group, who filled the air with sweet feelings, relaxation and excitement.
Summing up the Conference, James Powell the UNICEF U-report Project Manager, thanked everyone for their support towards the success of this event. He specifically thanked European Union for the support, the MPs and government at large for believing in the project and always paying attention to the issues raised by the U-reporters and majorly to the U-reporters for their interest in the project and their continued response to the U-report poll questions.
Powell said that despite the fact that U-report is a new strategy to engage the youth, it has in a very short time proved to be the most effective way of engaging the youth in the decision making processes of the Government and also of getting the youth to cause positive impact in society.
He appealed to Government to continue supporting the platform and responding to the issues raised by the U-reporters and to the U-reporters to continue reporting on the social/development challenges in their localities, responding to U-report poll questions and recruiting more U-reporters. James revealed that currently there are approximately 115000 U-reporters in the Country and they still look at recruiting even more.
He crowned the event with offering each U-reporter a Google solar Charger to keep their phones charged and in position to report anytime, anywhere.