Ghana has a youthful population with its young people, aged 18 to 35 years, constituting 58.44% and over 62% of the voting population in the 2012 and 2016 General Elections respectively. Indeed, available statistics show that an overwhelming 73.7% of the population of Ghana fall below the age of 35years. However, despite the growing youthful population and provisions sufficiently made in a number of African Union protocols, specifically the African Youth Charter, for Member States’ advancement of youth participation and representation in governance, a Youth Bridge Foundation’s Study Report (Youth Participation in Ghana’s Political and Electoral Processes, December 2016) revealed a regrettable low level of youth participation in Ghana’s political and electoral processes. The study further identified the prolonged youth marginalization as a major contribution to youth apathy in political and electoral processes.
One important avenue for youth representation and participation in policy decision making and governance is parliament. However, as a reflection of the general youth marginalization in decision making and governance, youth representation in Ghana’s legislature, is also low. In spite of the preponderance of the youth constituency in Ghana, there are only 13 (5 females and 8 males) of them, representing only 4.7%, who are aged between 21-35 years in the 275 seater-7th Parliament of the Fourth Republic.
The data above clearly does not only project weakening frontiers in championing youth development agenda, but projects a worrying trend of weak grooming and mentorship platforms to address the challenges of youth exclusion and participation.
There is a general understanding among the elderly that the youth are inexperienced to vie for high positions of trust. They are therefore asked to bid their time till the future after the completion of the term of the “old and experienced” politicians. A recent Youth Bridge Foundation (YBF) study also reveals that the existence of certain barriers such as high cost of election (filing fees and campaign), compounds this situation by discouraging the youth from taking up the challenge of representing their constituencies.
Representation of the people is one of the major embodiments of democratic governance, where the views and aspirations of citizens are channeled through their representation in parliament. This is fully captured under the duties of Members of Parliament, which states that “A Member of Parliament is a representative of all his constituents regardless of their party affiliations. The Member must find time to interact with his constituents at regular intervals. It is the duty of a Member to explain to his constituents the laws passed by Parliament and policies being pursued by the Government.”
A baseline study undertaken by our institution, the Youth Bridge Foundation (YBF), reveals however that, apart from the negligible number of young people whose selection to parliament is purely accidental, there are also no institutionalized structures to promote regular engagements between the few young parliamentarians and their constituents, particularly young people. Consequently, young parliamentarians are unable to provide updates on their role and performance in parliament. They are also unable to consult their constituents in deciding on matters that directly affect them in a manner that ensure quality representation. On the part of the young constituents, they are often not seized with the knowledge and information with which they could demand accountability from their representative in parliament. Undoubtedly, the lack of institutionalized platforms for interaction between young parliamentarians and their constituents limits the latter’s understanding of the role of their representatives, and what can be done to ensure that they are given quality representation.