By Natsai Mhosva
Corruption, according to the Miriam-Webster dictionary is, ‘the dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.’ It is important to note that the definition of corruption is not confined only to the exchange of bribes. Misuse of power is also corruption and people’s expectations remain unfulfilled because of it. During the past month, FEMNET has managed to take part in online conversations about Youth standing against corruption moderated by World Youth Movement for Democracy (WYMD). Margarita Valdes, a democracy activist from El Salvador and Hurford Youth Fellow at the World Youth Movement for Democracy, moderated an online discussion with other anti-corruption youth activists. David Riveros Garcia (Paraguay), Sadia Doha (Bangladesh), and Ahmed Hadji (Uganda) talked about how corruption manifests itself in their region and shared some strategies they have used to successfully stand up to corruption in their countries. The discussion focused on the process of building an active civil society through anti-corruption initiatives.
In Uganda, through activities such as the ‘Black Monday campaign’ which is an initiative for youth, there is joint solidarity mourning of corruption activities through processes of naming and shaming. There is a call to wear black every first Monday of the month to show discontent with the theft of public funds. People are discouraged from buying goods and services from businesses owned by thieves and encouraged to support those working honestly to make a living. There is a call for Uganda to become a nation that believes in transparency and this has been partially achieved through the ‘Access to information Act’ that has been passed in the country.
Bangladesh is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranked 13 in the global corruption barometer in 2012. In a poll that was conducted by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) more than 90% agreed that the judiciary is corrupt, and this has led to the creation of an anti-corruption law that is aiming towards transparency and accountability from the previous election. Outreach activities were carried out with efforts focused on schools and civic education reaching out to the younger generation. About 30% of youth voted for an anti-corrupt candidate in the parliamentary selection, and their aim was to pick honest candidates.
In Paraguay, corruption is a culturally endorsed problem and a youth led organization, Reacción Juvenil de Cambio (Youth Change reaction) has initiated the development of a movement ‘Transparency Talks’ calling for social transparency through civic education in Universities and high schools calling for youth to shift “from objects of change to subjects of change” and this is brought to light by pledges taken by the students.
The question is, are there are any efforts to instill integrity and accountability within youth led NGOs as they stand against corruption? Yes, there are guidelines to follow whenever you want to fight against corruption. There is need to realize that it is not easy and sometimes unsafe, as issues of security are of great concern. One also wonders whether youth are contributing to the policy making process? Are youth really protagonists or just a mirage? There has to be a creation of a platform for youth to participate actively and meaningfully in policy making processes.
Reform and change cannot be accomplished without political backing and there must be the existence of a strong link between the two. How committed are the youth? How does one get them to constantly engage? The process of ‘building critical masses’, which is the methodology of the oppressed is very essential. Sometimes, civil society makes the mistake of having the answers all the time, whereas communities must own the problem on their own and the solutions, which can be reached with the help of civil society.
All democratic societies have corruption in some sense, no sector is completely free. Inter-generational conversation, values of honesty, integrity, dignity, accountability have to become the core of youth led organisations. The youth, as leaders of both today and tomorrow, have to fight corruption in order to get inclusion, and once in they must practice integrity that will lead towards a corruption free generation.
Natsai Mhosva is an FK exchange fellow Zimbabwe with FEMNET. Connect with her on twitter @natsiemhosva and email firstname.lastname@example.org.