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Youth Networks and the Power of One

In April 2017, a young activist was arrested for organizing a demonstration promoting the needs of youth and government reform in Mauritania. Oumou Kane, founder, and president of the Multicultural Association for a Better Future (AMAM) was released three days later due to an unexpected, yet powerful movement of youth across the African continent. IRI wanted to understand Oumou's leadership journey, and what inspired her to lead a youth movement in Mauritania.

In a recent interview with IRI, Oumou shared that her participation in the 2015 Generation Democracy Dakar conference inspired her to take a more active role in promoting youth civic and political participation. Previously, she focused on driving community service programs, but in Dakar, Oumou understood that she also support youth in Mauritania.

Oumou met inspiring young leaders from seven West African countries when attending the Generation Democracy conference including Tidiani Togola from Mali. Tidiani invited Oumou to visit his organization to learn how to leverage technology to monitor elections and engage youth. Oumou sent members from her organization to train in Mali with Tidiani. Oumou's staff learned how to promote greater transparency during an election cycle. Using the knowledge from the trip, Oumou and her staff are currently working to get a meeting with the President of the electoral commission in Mauritania about adopting a web/smartphone app ahead of the legislative elections in December 2017.

Oumou personally credits another Dakar participant from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for inspiring to take a more active role in advocating for government to develop more youth-friendly policies. She discussed how dynamic presentations and visual storytelling tools were critical for her discovering new ideas that she could take back home.

"His presentation on how he is working with youth across the DRC was illuminating. Trainings led by young Africans for Africans is a great way to help inspire ideas, and collaboration. I understood immediately that there was more I needed to do back home, and the ideas I was exposed to in Dakar provided me with roadmap on how to advocate for youth back home."

2017 was not the first-time youth in Mauritania came together and called for an end to corruption and economic reform centered on the creation of more jobs. In 2011, youth gathered the country's capital to wage sit-ins to protest the government's economic policies. Oumou believes that the fire inside people back in 2011 is still ignited and the fight is still not over. She, like many other young leaders within the Generation Democracy network, understand that youth must find a way to connect protest to policy, and identify ways to get young people more civically and politically engaged. 

Oumou’s story is why Generation Democracy is different—the network helps youth discover new ideas by leaning from each other. This process, known as discovery learning, is a type of learning which fosters peer-to-peer feedback and exchange of ideas that leads to new ideas, and ultimately, youth-driven solutions. IRI is focused on facilitating activities and opportunities that drive peer-to-peer feedback to ensure youth are discovering new ideas they can test in their communities.  

Through regional academies and global summits, IRI is developing more youth-led sessions, and opportunities that lead to collaboration and youth-led solutions. Networks after all are not just about the number of members, but also about each individual member's journey and personal contribution to help inspire and strengthen a movement.