Uganda at 50: Galvanize youth activism through mentoring young leaders!

In Uganda today, the number of mentoring initiatives in corporate, professional, and religious communities, as well as to neighborhood citizens have grown considerably in recent years and this popularity has resulted in many compelling testimonials by people especially children, the youth and adults alike who have themselves benefited from the positive influence of an older person who has helped them endure social, academic, career, or personal crises. Being one of those lucky individuals who have benefited from mentorship, I am now a youth rights activist which keeps fresh my memories of the mentorship I underwent a few years ago. The mentorship experience was not only new, but also an appealing, mind-opener and an exposure to ‘learning and unlearning’, reflecting, debate and discussion of issues affecting my community that I didn’t know about. Much as I would speak for myself, communicate and freely share ideas, I was uncertain of what had lain ahead, behind and even around me because my thinking aptitude was narrow. Being a very a quiet and shy person, the training catapulted my self-esteem and confidence and I can now confidently address mammoth crowds all as a result of mentorship.
Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be (Eric Parsloe, 2009). In leadership terms, Mentoring is the art of, Giving someone help and advice over a period of time and often teaching him/her how to lead and consistently helping them to see themselves grow to maturity. Giving help to a leader and young people in particular helps them improve on their leadership skills and grow to greater professional and personal heights. Therefore, the concept of mentoring is basically a relationship in which an individual with more knowledge, skills, and experience in a given area (mentor) supports another person (mentee) on a journey of self development and self improvement over a period of time. Mentoring the youth is a powerful personal development, empowerment tool and an effective way of helping young people to progress in their lives. It is a partnership between two people (mentor and mentee) normally working in a similar field or sharing similar experiences. It is a helpful relationship based upon mutual trust and respect.
Leadership on the other hand can be described as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. It is about organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal. Who, then, is a transformative leader? A transformative leader is that who can guide, direct, and influence others to bring about a fundamental change, change not only of the external world, but also of internal processes. He/she is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way to a group of people. She/he is one who guides a group of people to where they ought to be not where they want to be.Transformative leadership is not limited to the leadership of large groups in society; it just as well applies to individuals and indeed the family which is the nucleus of society. Transformative leaders can therefore be found at different levels (e.g. community, national, global), and in various sectors (e.g. society, economy, politics). This kind of leadership enhances the motivation, morale and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the mission and the collective identity of the organization; being a role model for followers that inspires them; challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers…… the leader can align followers with tasks that optimize their performance.
But what does mentorship really mean in a country like Uganda whose demographics show that Uganda is an extremely youthful population. The greater percentage of the populace that comprises of the youth (between the age of 15 and 24 which is around 83% (African indicators report 2011) is apathetic, less skilled, unemployed and disgruntled. Given the governance structures that are not only weak but also tainted with corruption, the representation of the youth and reflection of their interests in political and leadership spheres is far from adequate. Many discussions centred on governance, policy, leadership and social economic interests in the country are dominated by a purely confrontational, rather than constructive interaction between political actors. Similarly, political parties and other groups and organizations in society have failed to clearly address the concerns of the young Ugandans. Take for example youth unemployment rates which in Sub-Saharan Africa are very high, 3 times higher than the average rate for adults. While many youth aspire for leadership roles in society, there have not been any deliberate efforts by key concerned organizations in societal to mentor the youth especially as regard to leadership. It’s against the above background that the youth have been used by political parties and pressure groups as vehicles of perpetrating violence, electoral malpractice while many have joined politics without the necessary skills and training resulting in their low efficiency in leadership spheres. Additionally, young people especially young women continue to be marginalized in the domestic and public level decision-making processes. This is brought about by the existing governance structures as earlier on pointed out which are highly patriarchal and influencing public policy especially from a gender perspective has become a daunting task for women legislators. Despite the great milestones the gender activist and feminist movements have reached in the past twenty years in Uganda; the fight rages on to lift girls and women to their greatest potential. In such an environment, many have internalized male norms and values and have not advanced the gender equality agenda.
At present, there is a growing need on a national scale to target young people because of their ability to advance change. They are social actors of change and can serve as a pressure group to lobby governments in defining their priorities. It has been clearly stressed by many that the “youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but are the partners of today”. Even then, it is impossible for any organization, community, or even country to effectively move forward without the plan for growth and sustainability. This is where mentoring has to come in. Young people need to be oriented on leadership as this will help shape the kind future everyone is desirous about. Baake Specioza, a young woman leader currently pursuing advanced education thinks that it is important to mentor leaders especially when they are still young and flexible enough to learn new things. “Young people are not yet too rigid with some bad cultural and religious beliefs which are social constructions” says Baake. According to Suzan Posing a development researcher and Trainer who worked with many organizations in Uganda for quite some time before retiring to Sweden says that for young Ugandans, a lot is centred on the issue of job creation. She asks, why not invite various groups to imagine their dream education, dream job, respectively their dream organization or even dream society? Her experience tells her that the people, not least the young people of all sexes have a lot of ideas, just waiting to be expressed and further developed. Why not begin where they are? Why not tap into that huge potential? Martin Rumanyika a youth rights activist who has also been mentored intimates to me that he has always considered youth to be a significant group to cause change in society and depending on the inspirations they get, their efforts will lead to positive or negative impacts. Youth have the power to influence the young and old he adds. Through his organization, Martin has dealt with youth for close to five years and he knows what it means to involve them in societal issues. Patricia Munabi the Executive Director of FOWODE a women’s rights NGO that has mentored young women and men for the last ten years in alternative and transformative leadership says that “mentorship creates opportunities for inventing and disseminating new approaches and advancement of sustainable solutions that create social change in the communities where the young leaders live and serve. Through these means, young women and men explore their potential, develop life skills and become creative and innovative visionaries in addition to enabling the youth to appreciate and embrace transformative leadership values through dialogue, debates and networking with fellow colleagues thus sowing seeds of change in Uganda’s leadership”.
She adds that the techniques the young women and men should be equipped with should include knowledge on Gender, culture and sexuality, Leadership in context, Conflict Management and resolution, Emotional Intelligence, Communication and Public Speaking skills among others to enable them be better focused in their undertakings and positively influence those they interact with, thereby improving the situations in which they operate.

Without a shadow of doubt mentoring the youth could be a powerful force in shaping the face of leadership in Uganda. In order to motivate and guide these youngsters, there is need to take mentorship as a tool to increase their visibility in governance and other developmental processes taking place in the communities and the country as whole. In order to address deeply embedded issues of patriarchy and other leadership challenges Uganda is experiencing today, a new generation of young women and men leaders need to be mentored so as to increase on the cadre of young men and women leaders in this country whose consciousness is awakened to issues of bad governance, political leadership, gender equality, social justice and social transformation to make them better leaders. The National Youth Manifesto developed by Uganda Youth Network clearly affirms that capacity building, accountability and transparency training initiatives for youth should be affected by government, political actors and other developmental actors including civil society organizations as this will help them to be watch dogs over corrupt officials and against all acts of corruption, bad governance and other injustices that is happening in our communities. There is also need to mentor young women leaders who will carry on and preserve the works of today’s generation to greater heights by fulfilling their future plans.

it is only by infusing transformative leadership skills and knowledge into youth’s overall leadership through mentorship that the realization of social change and indeed good governance for the good of this country and beyond will be attained. The youth however need to reminded that the advantages of their enlightenment should not solely be for own self-fulfilment but for the general good of our society. Thus, as a strategy for helping young people succeed in school, work, life as well as leadership, mentoring should be affected because it will help build the confidence, resources and support that young people need to achieve their leadership potential. These positive outcomes are only possible when young people are engaged in high-quality mentoring relationships and are involved as facilitators themselves. The older role models and others should come in to mentor, inspire, motivate and share experiences, and when these people come, they should leave behind their big names, age and status in order to relate to and support the initiatives of young Ugandans.

Kaviri is a Community Based Rehabilitation at Kyambogo University; he is a Blogger, Youth and social media Activist. He has previously worked with the International Republican institute and at the same time with People’s progressive party (PPP) as an Administrator and also with the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) as “Mr FOWODE”. He is also a founding member of the Young Leaders Think Tank for Policy alternatives initiated and is supported by the Konrad- Adenauer- Stiftung (KAS) in Uganda.






7 thoughts on “Uganda at 50: Galvanize youth activism through mentoring young leaders!

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