Young people encouraged to vote
Young people across Samoa are being encouraged to make the right choices and become involved in politics ahead of next year’s general election.
Youth and Students for Peace (Y.S.P) or the International Association of Youth and Students for Peace (I.A.Y.S.P) is among the non-Government organisations encouraging young voters.
The Association was established in 2017 with the goal of bringing young people together from different backgrounds and empowering them to become future leaders.
The organisation's vision is to build a global family of young people around the goal of mutual love. Its mission is to advance world peace by empowering youth and students through character education and peace projects in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The President of Y.S.P Samoa, Mee Hwa Atimalala, told the Samoa Observer the majority of the country’s population are young people and it was imperative that politicians be sensitive to their needs.
She explained that it is important to make sure that young people are politically informed:
“It will be good if elders trust their youth and encourage the youth to vote and just trust that they have brought up their kids well enough to make such important decisions in life."
Ms. Atimala said that young people may find it difficult to make big decisions such as in the upcoming general elections but she emphasised that they should not feel obliged to vote for whichever party their parents support.
“The importance of us being involved in the elections is that it's our opportunity to shape the future,” Ms. Atimalala told the Samoa Observer.
"Sometimes the youth are not satisfied with how their government runs the country, but this is their chance to decide who gets in.
“We really are the majority, and so it would be good for politicians to appeal to the youth."
She said that voting is the perfect way to ensure young people can contribute to the shape of the nation.
“For me personally I do want to make the best decision on voting and to do that I have to understand where each of the politicians are coming from. I take this kind of decision quite seriously, so this is my first year being eligible to vote in Samoa,” she said.
“I am a bit hesitant to vote if I don’t understand the politicians and their motives and their history."
When asked if Y.S.P is conducting any programmes to help organise young people to participate in April’s election, Ms. Atimalala said the organisation is running a series of online U.S.O. courses which can be found on the Youth and Students for Peace Samoa Facebook page.
"It stands for the United Students of Oceania but also it makes reference to our Samoan word uso (brother or sister),” she said.
“We think that it's important for us as island nations in Oceania to support one another, especially because we are in a global arena with other massive nations. Its important for us to unite and take care of one another."
Ms. Atimalala said the organisation has been introducing its members to leaders relevant to the upcoming elections which are Parliamentarian leaders and Heads of States.
“The purpose of that is to expose the youth to the kinds of leadership that exists in our nation and in our region and also to get them used to having a say” she said.
One project the group is planning for the future is called "Meet the MPs". It will allow young members to ask questions of and familiarise themselves with the Members of Parliament.
She said that Y.S.P has four core values: responsibility, integrity, service and empathy.
She said the organisation also emphasised the value of "filial piety" or children paying respect and devotion to their parents
Ms. Atimalala also advised young people to devote themselves to their education and to learning new skills.
“Try to ensure that you educate your character as well so that we can trust that whatever you do in life with the skill that you learned, it's going to benefit more than just yourself, it will benefit you and your family, society and nations in the world,” she said.