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DDP research on youth political participation in Kwazulu-Natal

The Democracy Development Program (DDP) recently undertook an internal research project entitled “Youth Activism as A Catalyst of Active Citizenship Among Young People in KwaZulu-Natal Province” aimed at better understanding the state of youth political participation in the area.

DDP intends using the data collected to deepen its understanding of the DDP youth network and identify areas for future intervention. It will also share data with partners in the sector. DDP’s main areas of interest include the organizational structure of youth groups, youth engagement with government and other institutions of power, knowledge gaps among activists, and challenges facing relevant actors. Data was collected by compiling and analyzing over fifty responses to an online survey designed to emphasizethese areas of interest. In addition, a series of interviews were conducted with local activists engaged in diverse aspects of KZN youth political participation.

A number of recurring themes emerged throughout both the online survey responses and the interviews:

  • The need for young people to participate in and contribute to the South African economy. A recurring theme was the idea that young people must learn to see the South African economy as “everyone’s economy” in which every citizen must play an active and creative role.
  • Desire for broad education reform. Along with a dire need to enact real educational policy change and increase access to higher education, many survey respondents emphasized the need for a more holistic approach to education and youth’s potential for community engagement.
  • Willingness to work with existing institutions and power structures. Overall the research did not indicate a strong desire to radically change existing political institutions. Rather, respondents cited the need to reduce corruption and increase efficiency and ease of access.
  • The importance of good leadership within the youth activism community. Many respondents said that they saw great potential in young people, but that it could only truly be harnessed with the help of great leadership.

The research subsequently identified the following areas of need:

  • Insufficient networking opportunities
  • Confusing means of accessing resources
  • Lack of financial literacy
  • Need for better leaders and mentors
  • Need for greater understanding of how to interact with local government
  • Better general inclusivity

Though these apparent issues at hand are as diverse as the youth population itself, DDP will work towards alleviating the knowledge gaps and empowering community organizations to help fix the problems illuminated by this research. It will do this through targeted capacity building workshops, as well as through community engagement via public forums and community dialogues.

For more information on the project contact DDP's Brian Bhengu on +27 31 304 9305 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Written by: Brian Bhengu, Austin Moreman and Paul Kariuki

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Sharing the common goal of promoting participatory, effective, accountable and pro-poor local governance, the network strives to provide an interface for civil society organisations to network and share information towards strengthening local democracy in South Africa.

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