The UN-Habitat is inviting and encouraging young people between the ages of 16 to 32 from around the world to vote for their representatives for the 2015-2017 UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board.
Candidates and voting are organized by continent with each voter allowed to vote for two candidates, one male and one female.
The Youth Advisory Board is a youth consultative body that advises UN-Habitat on strategies to engage young people in sustainable urban development.
From Malawi, Ms. Vanessa Phekani, 26 is contesting and competing with four peers from the continent namely, Ms. Harimbolam Alala Rakoto Andrianjaf (Madagascar), Ms. Irene Ikomu (Uganda), Ms. Margaret Koli (Kenya) and Ms. Sarah Mwikali Musau (Kenya).
The link for voting is: http://unhabitat.org/yab-2015-voting/
On paper, going by the World Bank’s 2014 population estimates, Vanessa’s is a tough battle because Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar have numbers on their side.
Kenya’s estimated population is 46 million, Uganda’s 39 million, and Madagascar 24 million against Malawi’s estimated 17 million.
Speaking to Vanessa about these odds, she remains upbeat and confident on the grounds that if Malawian youths vote for her in numbers, Malawi can easily take advantage of the split votes from Kenya which has featured two candidates.
This still leaves Madagascar and Uganda.
She adds that if internet penetration can be a factor, Madagascar with an internet penetration of just about 2.2% against Malawi’s 5.4% is beatable.Source: ITU 2014. Data: 2013
Vanessa quickly adds however that: “If Malawians can vote generously and help her lobby fellow youths from SADC region for support, Malawi can secure the seat on UN Habitat Youth Advisory Board even against Uganda which has an internet penetration of 16.2% and a higher population.”
Whether Malawians who religiously follow trivial shows like Big Brother Africa will rise to the challenge, remains to be seen.
Responding to the question what exactly is she offering to the Board and Africa? Vanessa, she says:
“I am a Malawian youth who believes that Africa has an untapped resource and I want to play an integral role in harnessing it. While our continent of Africa is blessed with many resources; opportunities are limited for us, especially girls cannot contribute to changing our fortunes. As I want to be the change I want to see, I am proactively involved in numerous youth empowerment projects like educating and advocating for adolescents; campaigning against child trafficking; promoting gender equality; conducting career development initiatives & youth counselling.”
Her previous work with UN- Habitat Kenya in the Youth Unit, would be a boost for her if she is elected because she is already conversant with how the UN Habitat operates.
Canvassing for her, youthful Dedza East parliamentarian Juliana Lunguzi who has endorsed her via social media saying:“Vanessa has the passion, zeal and can-do attitude to serve as an effective Youth Ambassador via the Youth Advisory Board,”and she urges all youths across Malawi and the SADC region to vote for Malawi.”
Voting opened on 01 August 2015 and will close on 31 August 2015 and voters are advised to vote only once. To vote go to: http://unhabitat.org/yab-2015-voting/Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :