Briefly tell us about this livelihood programme you have just launched.
Since its inception, the Young Achievers Awards which is now being run by Reach A Hand Uganda as one of it’s youth livelihood programmes, has established itself as arguably the most prestigious awards’ event of its kind in the region.
Ever since the awards were last held in 2013, the nation has been missing out on the opportunity and platform that the awards presented to celebrate young people who have been at the centre of socio-economic and political transformation of Uganda.
The awards were last held in 2013. Is it true you mismanaged the Awards?
No. The co-founders of the awards, Mr Awel Uwihanganye and Mr Ivan Kyambadde Serwano, wanted to pass on this baton to young people to spearhead the awards. They had played their part but during the break, they hadn’t yet felt that young person or youth led organisation had convinced them that they had both the passion and capacity to celebrate their peers.
We convinced them about a year ago and since then they have been courting us; 2017 has had the stars align and we believe it is the right time to make them confident that Reach A Hand Uganda, a youth-led and youth serving organisation, can organise the awards going forward.
Reach A Hand Uganda is mostly known as a youth led organisation focused on sexual reproductive health and rights. Aren’t you diverting focus to something completely different?
Reach A Hand Uganda is all things youth empowerment. We have grown from a weekend outreach programme to a fully-fledged organisation.
Our 2016-2020 Strategic plan also has seen us incorporate youth livelihood programmes where the Young Achievers Awards fits in. Besides, Young Achievers Awards is not the only youth livelihood programme we have.
We also have Katereza Community Alliance based in Mbarara District where we give out education grants, micro-grants for women led initiatives and we are fundraising to build a health facility in the village.
How is this year’s edition of the awards different from the past awards?
We have moved away from having the awards as a one day event to a full year programme. We have already hit the ground running.
In February we will kick off with regional tours in the central, east, northern and western Uganda to create awareness about the awards but to also fish out young innovators, entrepreneurs and change agents who are not being celebrated and we will showcase them to the world. We will also have networking events where prospective nominees will get a chance to meet some of the celebrated business persons and entrepreneurs.
Past the award ceremony night, the finalists and winners will be engaged in vigorous themed summits, for example, legal, branding and marketing, funders and leadership.
What are the categories?
The 2017 edition will celebrate 10 most outstanding young people in the categories of social entrepreneurship, business, ICT and innovation, outstanding sports personality, media and journalism, farming and agro-processing, music, fashion, film & photography, young achiever of year, young hero/heroine of the year and the lifetime achievement award.
That is good. Have the nominations kicked off yet?
Oh Yes! All nomination procedures have been listed on the website, and we have started. Any young person between the ages of 18 and 35 who thinks he/she is contributing to the development of Uganda can visit www.youngachieversawards.ug and download the nomination form. Nominations will close on May 2.
What do you seek to achieve with the Young Achievers Awards?
We want to change the narrative that young people have nothing useful to add to the positive development of this country.
Many young people are silently transforming Uganda but unfortunately they are not being recognised. This is the right time to tell the world that young people, if given the right platforms, and recognised for their efforts, they can effectively contribute to the development of Uganda to achieve all her long term goals.
Many people have come up with all sorts of awards in the name of youth empowerment. But they end up exploiting the unsuspecting youth. What makes your award different?
It is the platforms we have created that make Young Achievers Awards different. First of all, the awards celebrate the youth by awarding them in areas contributing to the development of this country.
We have built more activities and platforms around the awards to make them not a one-day event. For example there will be a Leadership Summit where we are going to bring in leadership experts to train the youth to be effective leaders while running their businesses.
We have also set up the Legal Summit to help the finalists and winners be equipped with knowledge on intellectual property rights so as to have their ideas protected. This definately addresses some of the issues you raise such as exploitation.
We will also have the Funders Summit where they will get an opportunity to pitch their ideas before philanthropists, venture capitalists, funders and even local financial institutions such as banks that are willing to invest in their excellent ideas. This is not exploiting unsuspecting youth. It is actually creating a supporting network to empower suspecting youth not to be exploited.
Lastly, how do initiatives such as Young Achievers Awards help solve some of the challenges affecting youth in Uganda today?
Youth need inspiration. Most unemployed youth in Uganda are not unemployed because there are no jobs but because they are not seeing how their peers are using opportunities around them to overcome some of these challenges.
With initiatives such as Young Achievers Awards, young people transforming themselves and our country, are being given an opportunity to inspire their peers to also defy the odds and never give up on the drive to achieve success. That is how initiatives like this are helping solve some of the challenges affecting youth in Uganda.