BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 8, 2020– As Belize draws nearer to its general elections on November 11, 2020, the communal buzz has been growing regarding what may be one of Belize’s most unprecedented elections in history.
Per the norm, all political parties and candidates vying for office have been trying to cover as much ground as possible in seeking support and encouraging constituents to vote. One new feature of this year’s road to the general elections, however, is the Youth Votes Matter campaign, designed by the Youth Voice organization to educate young Belizeans on the policies that govern the affairs of the country and encourage them to become a part of the decision making process.
As of June 2020, the youth electoral population was estimated to occupy 40.1% of eligible voters in Belize within the age cohort of 18-34 years old; however, various platforms have shown that Belize’s youths are either disinterested or dissuaded from exercising their right to vote, particularly in the upcoming elections.
The Youth Votes Matter campaign seeks to assuage this societal issue by engaging the younger generation and illustrating the importance their voices have in shaping the country in the future.
Active member and media representative of the campaign, Bryton Codd, explained that the movement is not unique to the Caribbean, but it was developed by both the Commonwealth Youth Council and the Caribbean Youth Council.
Initially the campaign was adapted by Trinidad and Tobago, then Jamaica, and now has expanded into Belize by way of networking and advocacy through students around the Caribbean who attend various branches of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
When asked about the importance of the campaign to Belize, Codd’s response was that:
“The initiative is essentially to broaden the political landscape and understanding of politics across the board and in terms of policies and how these policies affect the wider community and also to help young people to get a better understanding of that…it also gives the opportunity to voice concerns, interest and ideas to our political representatives or those vying for political office.”
The campaign will feature live discussion sessions with politicians and development policy professionals every Monday and Thursday, which will be streamed via Youth Voice’s Facebook page, as well as nightly discussions wherein youth guest stars will have the opportunity to critique said discussion sessions.
When asked about the objectives and takeaways of the campaign, his response was that:
“Essentially, the goal is to have a more engaged youth voting population that is willing to discuss national issues. However, besides just the civic responsibility of young people, we would also think that this initiative creates more openness and willingness from our thought leaders to engage with the general public on matters of governance and hopefully, it could create a viable platform to continue the discourse after the elections.”