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Youth Parliament gives young people a taste of politics

By Nurdin Hasan for Khabar Southeast Asia in Banda Aceh

October 12, 2013

Young people campaign for their ideas at an Indonesian Youth Parliament (IYP) session at City Hall in Banda Aceh on August 31st. IYP aims to educate young people about politics and inspire them to get involved. [Nurdin Hasan/Khabar]

Young people campaign for their ideas at an Indonesian Youth Parliament (IYP) session at City Hall in Banda Aceh on August 31st. IYP aims to educate young people about politics and inspire them to get involved. [Nurdin Hasan/Khabar]

They had 20 minutes to produce a vision, a mission, and a party platform on the topic of women's empowerment. Seated on the floor, five groups of ten people talked earnestly. They also had to make a poster representing their "party" and choose two "legislative candidates".

Then, each party's chairperson and candidates got up to argue for their ideas in front of about 200 people at the Indonesian Youth Parliament (IYP) at Banda Aceh City Hall on August 31st.

Just like campaign speeches in real elections, the presentations were punctuated with chants and yells urging voters how to vote.

Make your voice heard Earlier, attendees heard presentations about Indonesia's political system, including two keynote speakers from Indonesian Future Leaders, a non-profit organisation in Jakarta that sponsors the IYP.

"Being involved doesn't mean you have to join a political party. In fact, many people who are not party members are concerned to see more substance and quality in Indonesian democracy," said Gigay Citta Acikgenc, a University of Indonesia (UI) student and the executive director of IYP.

The IYP roadshow has visited 11 provinces in the past year, according to Gigay. It is an independent, national movement that seeks to raise youth political awareness and to unite Indonesian youth so their voices can be heard by various stakeholders and policy makers.

"From January 25th-31st, 2014, we will hold a National Youth Parliament in Jakarta, with 34 young people from every province in Indonesia," Gigay told Khabar Southeast Asia. "All Indonesian youth aspirations will be discussed. A petition will be handed to the government."

Selection of participants is under way via an online registration process.

"The long-term target is for young people to be willing to serve, so that they can be directly involved in improving Indonesia's political landscape for the better," she said.

Tap into your power

The participants in Banda Aceh were students, activists, and young politicians, many of them girls and women, aged 15 to 30. To draw them in, presenter Andhyta Firselly Utami, 21, asked three questions: what is politics? What is its influence? What are the main issues in Aceh?

Young people should be optimistic about their ability to create positive change, she told them. "We have political power through social media networks like Twitter and Facebook," said Andhyta, who recently graduated with a degree in International Relations from UI.

"We must make sure the political system improves, because we will be the leaders of the future. Youth Parliament must become a consolidating force for Indonesian youth to voice their aspirations to policy makers," Andhyta said.

In remarks opening the IYP, Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal urged young people to be front and center during 2014 national elections.

"Young people must rise up and be involved in the development of Indonesia, because our nation will be in your hands in the future," said Illiza.

Some young people care about community and national issues and are addressing them in creative, productive and innovative ways, while some are passive and apathetic, she said.

Asiah Uzia, an activist and legislative candidate for the Banda Aceh City Council in 2014, said that to date, very few young people are involved in politics in Aceh.

"I hope that in the future, Aceh's young people will care more about politics and various public policy issues, in the midst of their studies…We hope they will be critical, and improve existing conditions," she told Khabar.

Politics is for everyone

Rizka Nadya, 22, a young doctor, said the Youth Parliament was valuable because it educates young people about national issues and urges them to get involved.

"The Youth Parliament is important for Aceh because unethical politics have been occurring here. In Aceh there has been destruction of the environment and human rights issues that haven't been resolved. Young people need to get involved in these issues," Rizka told Khabar.

Busy in her daily life with work at Zainoel Abidin Public Hospital in Banda Aceh, she said she had not yet thought about getting involved in politics herself. "But if the situation demands it, later on I could join a political party and become a candidate for office," she said.

Maulidar Yusuf, 21, participated in the Youth Parliament because she wanted to know more about politics and Indonesian democracy. "Politics is not just for politicians, it's for everyone. Youth need to get involved to improve the condition of our nation," she said.

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