YAS pleads for inclusivity in youth related bills

The Mzuzu-based Youth and Society (YAS) has made an impassioned plea to the government to ensure that there is adequate inclusivity in the current development of a successor policy to the 2013 National Youth Policy which expired in 2018.

President Lazarus Chakwera (L) with Youth and Society leader Kajoloweka

Theorganisation noted that there have been inadequate consultations in the review processes but commended the government for the review of both NYCOM Act and National Youth Policy saying the reviews were long overdue.

“We observe that most local Youth NGOs and stakeholders working in the youth sector have not been given an opportunity to participate in the review of the amendment Bill and the Policy,” YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka said in a petition to National Youth Council dated 1st September, 2020.

Kajoloweka also noted that the Amendment Bill contained problematic provisions which he said could pose challenges for Youth NGOs’ ability to operate in Malawi.

“The Bill contains some provisions which pose serious threats to civic space. We are ready to constructively discuss details of such provisions with the Ministry,” he said.

Some of the problematic areas include: One such example is the ambiguous provision of mandatory registration with NYCOM for all organizations who work with youth or carry out any youth activities.

It also makes it a crime for a youth organization at national level to operate without registration with the Council despite being registered with other national regulatory bodies such as Ministry of Justice, NGO Board, and CONGOMA.

The Bill also introduces punitive penalties for any breaches of the Act. It reads “person causes or permits an organization to contravene subsection (1) commits an offence shall, upon conviction, be liable to a fine of K5,000,000 and imprisonment for five years”

Again, under section 31 of the Bill, the CEO of the NYCOM may refuse to register a youth organization if “the objectives of the youth organization are not aligned with the national development policies”.

This is a clear case of controlling and dictating the operations of youth NGOs and flouts the freedoms of association and conscience. For example, critical Youth NGOs working on corruption, defending LGBTI rights or promoting safe abortion are likely to face difficulties in registration with NYCOM due to government interests.

Further, under section 33 of the Bill, The Chief Executive Officer may deregister a youth organization, on his   own motion if the youth organization has not held a general assembly for a period of at least a year from the date of its registration or the date the organization held its last general assembly.

“We therefore would like to respectfully urge the Government through NYCOM to consider widening the consultations on the two reviews. We will be glad to further discuss this appeal with your office.  Kindly provide feedback as soon as possible preferably by Friday, 4th September, 2020, given the urgency of the matter,” Kajoloweka said.

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