International IDEA co-hosted two BRIDGE courses with the African Union under a funding agreement with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Botswana. Independent Electoral Commission of Botswana requested the BRIDGE curriculum to cater for two national workshops on Youth Outreach. Two courses took place in Gaborone and Palapye during the weeks of 12-16 November and 19-23 November respectively.
IEC Botswana has developed a concept called “Democracy Clubs”, which targets young voters in order to tackle issues of increasing voter apathy and declining voter turnout. The project of Democracy Clubs is anchored around Youth Ambassadors who will be supported by the IEC Botswana through staff, content and financial support. The Youth Outreach BRIDGE Course was seen as means by which the Clubs could be launched through a pilot phase and could contribute to developing the capacity of the Youth Ambassadors; coming from civil society and government ministries; and IEC Staff on issues of civic education, voter information and social media.
The course participants were therefore structured to include a mix of external stakeholders from civil society and the IEC. The courses themselves served as mechanisms by which the thinking and concepts regarding the Democracy Clubs could be tailored and panel-beaten across the two events. Using the “8-steps framework” from the Civic Education Module of the BRIDGE, a clearer path for the Democracy Clubs was first developed in the Gaborone workshop and then validated in the Palapye Workshop during the subsequent week. The BRIDGE Courses sought to provide a direct input into the project evolution of the Democracy Clubs and be of direct national use to the IEC Botswana.
As part of the programme, six semi-accredited BRIDGE facilitators received their full accreditation, under the supervision of Rushdi Nackerdien, the lead facilitator. The facilitators that were mentored to full accreditation were:
1. Pinki Selemogwe-Kwaramba
2. Molatlhegi Disang Baloi
3. Ngatangue Mavis Mukungu
4. Dintle Sparkie Rapoo
5. Mrs. Motlapele Eunice Raleru
6. Mr. Oscar K. Maroba
All the facilitators were successfully accredited in the first workshop, and all facilitators; except Ms Mukungu and Mr Maroba; also ran the workshop in Palapye. Ms Christina Sesinye provided administrative support for the two courses. All those involved, namely the facilitators and administrative support were intimately involved with the project management for the Democracy Clubs, so this meant that the lessons regarding project development during the courses could be directly absorbed and be fed into the project implementation. For each workshop, 25 participants were selected. Further fundraising for the Democracy Clubs initiative was being pursued, following some initial commitments regarding equipment that had been sourced from the Botswana corporate sector in Gaborone.
The process by which BRIDGE Modules are used to tie in with clearly defined national election projects or used to clarify the project framework is an important development within the use of the BRIDGE curriculum. These BRIDGE courses run in Botswana were used in this manner and helped define more clearly the programme around Democracy Youth Clubs and roles of Youth Ambassadors. In this regard the BRIDGE course found immediate usefulness within the Botswana context, while also helping to develop the capacity of participants in civic education in general, but specifically around engaging youth in the country through a variety of outreach mechanisms.
It is believed that all participants in both workshops were enriched by the course content and that the workshops were a significant step towards tackling the challenges associated with increasing youth participation in Botswana elections. Collaborative efforts between the IEC and the Youth Ambassadors can assist in improving youth participation ahead of the 2014 elections. In this regard the contribution of the African Union, GIZ and International IDEA becomes an important development in the assistance of national election authorities in facing national challenges.