By Maggie Farrand
“Chadians let’s stand up
Chadians we stand up
And build our country
Let’s go and build our country
Let’s go and vote the right person to lead”
In the United States, it’s “Rock the Vote” – a national effort to engage and build political power for young people through celebrity endorsements and mainstream media. Or it’s the many visits politicians take to colleges and universities during their campaign that excite and rally the youth to vote and make the change they want to see in their political system.
In Chad, no such initiatives exist. With past elections producing little change in their country, youth in Chad do not feel like their vote will make a difference. Even though they are often ignored and excluded from political participation, they are beginning to realize their potential to bring about change.
February 2011 marked the beginning of a five month election period in Chad – parliamentary, presidential, and local elections. The Promoting Elections, Accountability and Civic Engagement (PEACE) Project in Chad – a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project implemented by Counterpart International – promotes the participation of youth in the elections and encourages the public to vote peacefully.
In preparation for the elections, PEACE released a song titled “In Peace.” Featuring the voices of ten Chadian artists, the song uses local popular culture to manage and mitigate election-related conflict and to promote peaceful elections and youth activism.
“Using media that directly appeals to the young people in Chad is the best way to get them to vote. We want them to realize their potential and use it a constructive way. When they hear this song, ‘In Peace,’ they will be reminded of their role and power in the political process,” says PEACE Acting Chief of Party, Dr. Yusef Jedian.
In addition to releasing “In Peace”, Counterpart works closely with youth-focused civil society organizations (CSOs) and informal youth associations in Chad to encourage their members to learn about their rights as voters and the importance of their participation in the upcoming elections. The activities of PEACE help increase the visibility of youth, their participation in elections and influence on Chadian decision makers.
“In Peace” has been aired by national radio stations in the three most commonly spoken languages in Chad – French, Chadian Arabic and Sara – to ensure broad outreach. Private radio stations, such as Harmonie FM, have aired the song as well.
“For the first time in Chad, musicians from different backgrounds and of different ages gathered for one cause. It gives hope to Chadians that they can dream of peace,” says Djasra Ratébaye, PEACE Monitoring & Evaluation and Communications Manager.