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It’s only when you have a critical mass of women in politics that you get women’s issues attacked.- Mary Robinson

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Investing in youth: The AWEPA/NIMD political training sessions for young people in Benin

February 9, 2016

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Benin, West Africa – As part of the joint AWEPA/NIMD programme, which aims to strengthen the capacities of the National Assembly and political parties in Benin, AWEPA and NIMD run political training sessions for young Beninese people.

These training sessions target a group of politically active young people, selected from the main political parties and alliances represented in the Parliament and civil society. These participants are between 25 and 35 years of age, and are keen to learn, make their voices heard and make a difference to the political landscape in Benin.

The first political training session was held in Ouidah from 23-27 February 2015. During this time, the participants engaged in interactive training on the provisions and institutional framework of the Constitution of Benin, political parties and the development of a party manifesto.

The group of participants was also invited to join a second session, which took place from 2-5 September 2015. On this occasion, the young representatives had the opportunity to increase their knowledge on topics including the legal framework for political parties in Benin, the internal democracy of political parties, and the required qualities for a good election candidate. The participants had the chance to debate, carry out group work and engage in role-play activities.

As part of the initiative, AWEPA and NIMD also hold regular informal meetings known as ‘Café Politique’. These meetings take place roughly once a month and provide the young participants the opportunity to come together to engage in themes relevant to their political work. In 2015, these themes included election observation, results-based management, decentralisation in Benin, and the roles of the legislative branch, the government and the Constitutional Court.

An exchange visit to Tunisia was also organised from 29 April to 2 May, which five participants were selected to attend. As part of the exchange, the representatives attended a session of the Tunisian School of Politics (TSoP), an initiative which aims to strengthen the capacity of young Tunisian politicians and provide them with the tools they need to influence political decision-making.

The members of the Beninese delegation were able to exchange views and ideas with participants, organisers and alumni of the TSoP; and learn about the best and worst practices as experienced by participants of the inititative in their first years of setting up the school.

The information acquired will be used to develop part of the operational plan for the establishment of a fully-fledged Beninese School of Politics in 2016.

An important aspect of the activities is the commitment made by the participants to report back what they have learned to others within their political parties and civil society organisations. Therefore, through the hard work and dedication of these young people, the initiative not only impacts their own careers, but has a wider influence on the knowledge and capacities of others within the political sphere as a whole.