The International Day for Democracy 2023 is a reminder that democracy requires the participation of all citizens, and we celebrate this year’s theme: Empowering the next generation. Democracy is about people, and we should ensure that everyone has equal access to decision-making.
Trade unions have and continue to be at the forefront of the fight for democracy, both in the workplace and in society. It is critical that trade unions embrace the young workers who often find it difficult to find their place in trade union structures and activities.
Young workers are not only the future but also the present, and their involvement in structures of decision-making is vital. Just talking about it is not enough; it is now time to empower young workers and create structures where their voices are not just heard but valued in shaping the future of work.
For example, my union, the National Union of Plantation and Agricultural Workers in Uganda, has a Young Workers Committee with two representatives on the National Executive Board. Representation, alongside trainings and activities, has increased young worker membership in the union.
My union has also worked actively to elect young worker representatives in workplaces. This has created a sense of belonging as well as hope that our voices will be heard, but it has also provided the union with an influx of new ideas and people.
To ensure the continuity of trade unions, young workers must be integrated at all levels of responsibility within trade union structures and given equal opportunity to occupy leadership positions.
We face a world with challenges such as high unemployment, climate change, financial instability, racism, dictatorships and wars among others, and all these affect young workers directly.
On this day focused on democracy, let’s remember the importance of young workers to our present and future struggles. Democracy remains a beacon of hope for a better world. Young and old, experienced and new, let’s embrace democracy in society and in our unions; together we’ll build a better future.