Advocate says Tongan youth lack political knowledge
A youth and women's advocate in Tonga says young people in the kingdom don't have the political knowledge to participate effectively in next week's elections.
A youth and women's advocate in Tonga says young people in the kingdom don't have the political knowledge to participate effectively in this week's elections.
The Talitha Project Director, Vanessa Heleta, has held a workshop to help youth understand the political process.
Ms Heleta told Koro Vaka'uta the poor turnout shows politicians and election candidates are not engaging with the youth.
VANESSA HELETA: The candidates, they go around to the community and they go to a lot of kava party sessions and mainly the elder people dominate those spaces so I felt that if we provide a space specifically for young people then they will feel free and they will take ownership of that space.
KORO VAKA'UTA: How successful were you in achieving that?
VH: It was a disappointment because we were piloting the constituency one because I just thought let's start with them because they had three women candidates. The turnout was very low. I thought it would it be more because the registration for the vote increased to about 8,000 plus this year so I think they were told to go and register but the whole information of the issues, I don't think they really understand who to vote for. They were told by the candidates and the families of the candidates, go and register to vote but understanding of why they are voting for those candidates, they don't even know.
KV: We spoke earlier to Dr Halapua over in Tonga and he was talking about how many people weren't fully informed on the issues when they voted, this carries on to the youth?
VH: Yes. The youth. I think it should start from primary school or even from early high school level about the political participation and how they should make political issues part of their lifestyle. I think that the young people here in Tonga, a lot of them think that political issues are just for the older, for their parents, above 40. I'm talking about 35 to 21, voting age to 35. I don't think a lot of them care.
KV: How much of the onus should be put on the candidates as well though?
VH: The candidates. There were about five candidates that turned up that night, which shows that the youth issues, it's part of their agenda and some of these candidates have put the issues at the forefront of their key issues but I still think a lot of candidates still put women's issues and youth issues aside.
KV: What's the danger if this sort of pattern continues?
VH: The danger of it all is we're going to continue putting in the wrong people, what else can I say? Because they are not fully informed of who are the qualities and the key issues of the candidates we are going to continue, not all of the candidates are the wrong people, but we're going to continue putting in the people that are not advocating for the issues of the youth.
The Talitha Project will start political workshops aimed at 16-18 year olds in the new year.
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