The Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), Emma Theofelus, has been nominated for the One Young World Politician of the Year 2020.
“The nomination means a lot to me, this is an organisation highlighting, shortlisting young people they feel made an impact in their communities and being part of 15 young people across the world, not the continent but the world, is an honour for me,” she told New Era in a telephonic interview.
She said this has motivated her to do more, with or without the recognition, what she is doing could lead to good results. “With my law career choice, I want to be a human rights defender and through the work, I am doing now, I can see impact even in the things that are not part of my job description and that will always be valuable for me and motivate me to continue what I am doing,” said an ecstatic Theofelus.
The One Young World Politician of the Year Award recognises five of the world’s most outstanding politicians between the ages of 18 – 35, who are using their positions to have a positive impact on young people in their communities and countries. Through their important work, these candidates highlight the benefit of including young people in mainstream politics.
The youthful deputy minister mentioned that it is necessary for young people to be included in the law-making process of different nations. “This is not even debatable, young people are valuable, are multi-dimensional and can address a wide range of issues in the positions they hold,” she highlighted, further saying for one to make the change, there is no need to hold a certain political position.
The deputy minister is forever grateful for whoever nominated her to be part of the shortlist. “I am grateful for the nomination and whoever saw my worthiness after being only a few months in this position, I take pride in that. This is an opportunity that we will use to the best of our advantages, we (nominees) have started reaching out to one another, for us to learn from each other,” she said.
Theofelus, at the age of 24, is one of the continent’s youngest cabinet ministers in her capacity as the country’s deputy ICT minister. She previously served as the deputy speaker of the youth parliament of the country and the junior mayor of the City of Windhoek, amongst other roles.
She is up against 14 other young lawmakers in the world, including Syed Saddiq (27) from Malaysia. He previously served as the minister of youth and sports from 2018-2020. As minister of youth, Saddiq initiated the Yellow R Project (Projek Reben Kuning) aimed to give second chances to the employment of young ex-convicts.
Another nominee is Ofelia Fernández (20) from Argentina. She is a member of the Buenos Aires City Legislature. Elected at the age of 19, she is the youngest person in history to assume that seat. She is a feminist activist and garnered a lot of attention and support from Argentinian youth as a prominent voice on abortion rights.
The eligibility criteria state that nominees should be aged between 18 and 35, hold/have held elected or appointed office at any political level (local, national or supranational), and have had a tangible and material impact on young people in their communities. Nominees should have acted to highlight the importance of political participation as a way to effect positive change.
The winners are chosen based on the impact they are having in their home countries and how they have used their positions to benefit young people specifically. It is the first global award recognising the work of young politicians and was launched to counter the low level of youth engagement in politics.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which facilitates parliamentary diplomacy and empowers parliaments and parliamentarians to promote peace, democracy and sustainable development, only 2% of parliamentarians globally are under the age of 30 and just 14% are under 40.
The union mentioned that the issue is intensified by policies in 73% of countries that limit young people of voting age from running for office. Lack of representation raises the substantial risk of disconnecting an entire generation from their nations’ political processes.