Deputy ICT minister Emma Theofelus, as a member of parliament, facilitated the launch of the Bring a Buddy to Parliament, a democracy project in conjunction with the Office of the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Namibia Nature Foundation, under the theme ‘Bringing the Youth Closer to Parliament’.
The purpose of the project is to bring together youth groups from different walks of life to better understand the work of parliament – but more so, to contribute their voices to the people’s house.
It is further meant for the young participants to share and deliberate their aspirations and trials and suggest ways to fortify democracy in Namibia.
Theofelus said the concept around the project is to edify young Namibians to be more cognisant of the issues around them – but more importantly, to add their voice to factors affecting them and their communities.
Theofelus said she was exposed to the work of parliament early. “I was only 16 years old when I entered parliament – and the third session of the children parliament was happening. I then realised that I can go to parliament and sit in the gallery; it’s not that difficult,” she recalled.
She added: “I wanted to sit in parliament and discuss issues that affect me, my sister and brother, the community I hail from, my school, and be part of this national shaping discussion that is happening.”
Theofelus was later invited to participate in the fourth session of the children’s parliament when she was a juniour mayor of the city of Windhoek.
“I needed to make sure that my voice was heard and also the voices I represent, the young people who trusted me to speak on their behalf – and that is why you are sitting here; the young people who are part of the project must make use of this opportunity. How do you make sure you exploit the right without abusing it as a young person? What issues are you going to champion and what is going to motivate you to champion those issues,” she cautioned.
Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi said the youth should make use of the parliament to address issues that affect them.
“The seventh parliament is more diverse with a greater number of political parties, which should always be welcomed in a parliamentary democracy such as ours. This is an ideal opportunity for young people to actively participate and take action in meeting the developmental objectives of our country,” stated Katjavivi.
He added that he foresees this engagement as an avenue for parliamentarians to gain access to the public and its narratives, as well as to engage and hear the stories of the most vulnerable members of different society.
“This platform also provides our parliamentary research teams with an opportunity to acquire meaningful insights concerning the issues of preserving our natural resources. This will in return assist them in their submissions to members on the issues of natural resource management. This, therefore, translates parliament into a people-centred institution, which will consequently prioritise access of the people to their representatives,” added Katjavivi.
He said going to parliament should become popular among the young population and drastic change in the discourse around the table in youth circles. Katjavivi encouraged robust engagement with elected representatives on bills, motions and committee hearings.