This week, I had the opportunity of meeting Chrissy Fassen from the Rock the Vote! For me, this is the highlight of my trip to the USA; meeting someone who has been involved in a campaign to get people registered and get them to vote; something we are trying to replicate in Ghana with Ghana Decides. We recently run a campaign called #iRegistered to get people to voluntarily go register and share their experiences. That went pretty well and we are going to run another towards December to get people to go out and vote.
If you don’t know about Rock the Vote, they have been around as long as the 4th Republic has been. It’s in its 21st year and they run campaigns targeted at people between 18 and 29. It is the largest single non-political voter registrant in the USA, engaging people and giving them the information they need to register.
I first heard about Rock the Vote around the time P. Diddy put out that Vote or Die song and since we started the Ghana Decides project, I have been looking at their Website and social media for inspiration. Usually when I talk to people especially those who have lived or visited or know about USA politics about Ghana Decides, they always say ‘Are you trying to do something similar to Rock the Vote or Vote or Die?’. My answer: similar cause; different sides of the world.
Apart from increasing youth participation in the electoral process in Ghana, we (Ghana Decides) also try to reach socially excluded groups; women, prisoners and the physically challenged. It is not only about getting them to register but also getting them on social media; giving them a voice.
Chrissy shared some interesting strategies with us and a lot of these will come handy when we start our campaign to get people to vote. Some of the take-aways will be getting people to sign pledge cards and doing follow ups on election eve and election day. I am pretty excited to see how that will go. Rock the Vote is also huge on social media and on whether social media would be crucial as it was in 2008, Chrissy said ‘social media can outweigh every dollar spent’ and ‘it would be even more…. especially considering how Facebook and Twitter has evolved over the last 4 years.’
Have you ever heard of the President’s Forum for Young African Leaders? In August 2010, President Obama convened a three-day conference with more than 100 young leaders from a cross section of African life to examine how they see Africa’s future over the next half century, and to help craft innovative solutions to regional challenges. This programme has continued since the meeting in 2010 and has produced some alumni like Fred Swaniker and Shamima Muslim.
Secretary Clinton Addressing #YAL
On June 13, 2012, 60 Young African Leaders (including Dorinda and Tonyi from Ghana) from over 40 African Countries convened in Washington DC for a 3-week tour. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in addressing the Innovation Summit and Mentoring Partnership with Young African Leaders from Africa said with Africa’s population under 25 years forming 60% of the entire population, it could be daunting statistic or a cause for celebration. Daunting if they have no access to education, healthcare, voices are not heard and respected, etc. It could be a cause of celebration when young people can have their voices heard, help chart a new beginning, etc.
Secretary Clinton in her remarks said, having benefited from African migrants, America’s interest in Africa is a genuine one. Citing the example of the midwife who assisted her doctor when she had her daughter and has recently returned home to Ghana, Secretary Clinton said the USA wants to see a lot more Africans stay or return to the continent for Africa to benefit from them.
Initiatives like this are good for the continent and its youth. I posted on Instagram & Twitter this morning the lovely logo of the Young African Leaders and someone asked “What’s the deal with the star?”.
Young African Leaders logo
I bet he didn’t know or expected it to be an initiative from African within Africa but does it really matter? We live in a global world. As Barack Obama said during his visit to Ghana and Hillary Clinton reiterated yesterday, Africa is not a world apart but it is a fundamental part of our interconnected world. We keep talking about youth empowerment since we believe the youth of our countries hold the key to our development.
The two Ghanaian Youth Leaders this year; Dorinda and Tonyi are doing really cool things. Dorinda has established an NGO, Dream Environment in Kumasi with a team of young scrap and second-hand car dealers to help protect the environment. Tonyi, who was Mensah Sarbah JCR President 2006/2007 has established a shoe factory in Kumasi. I believe there are hundreds of many more young people doing wonderful things in Ghana. It’s important programmes like this bring them to the fore and give them a boost.