The world celebrated International Democracy Day on 15 September this year. In support of this day, the Secretary-General of the United Nations emphasised the essential role of democracy education to create an informed citizenry. When Malawi adopted multiparty democracy in 1994, the essential role of its citizens in sustaining its democracy was broadly established. Enshrined as a founding principle of the Constitution, the power of the State relies on informed democratic choice.
In the intervening years and against the backdrop of recent world events, the demand of citizens to have a say in their future has never been so resounding. The ability of a citizen to express their needs, freely choose their representatives and to hold those officials to account is vital. Globally, political parties, civil society organisations, governments and companies rise and fall on their ability to encourage, channel and respond to the voice of their constituents.
Every Malawian has a role to play in their democracy. Their voice, not only at the ballot box, but in the years between, should be expressed, heard and allowed to shape the future.Â Â What matters to you, in your personal life and your community, can be influenced by your voice.Â â€œMy Voiceâ€ is a slogan that UNDP Malawi attaches to this idea. â€œMy Voiceâ€ represents your individual right to have a say â€“ the Malawian voice â€“ your voice.
On International Democracy Day, we, therefore, encourage every citizen to reflect on how they can use their voice. What matters to you? And, how do you communicate it to your family, your community and your leaders? While the State and your elected representatives have a responsibility to listen, as an individual, you also have an obligation to speak. Your voice is valuable. It is a peaceful means to express the need for prosperity, jobs, health care, education and security that every citizen wants to be able to enjoy. It also aids a responsive, accountable and transparent government.
My voice is powerful in shaping my community. What is the power of my voice? My voice gives legitimacy to government at all levels. My voice decides who speaks for me in government. My voice decides who represents me in the National Assembly. My voice is the grass roots of Malawi. I do not wait to use my voice every five years. My voice identifies me as a Malawian.
Importantly, my voice respects other voices.Â While oneâ€™s own voice may be weakened or strengthened by other groups, it is strengthened by diversity and the inclusive dialogue that it offers. My Voice is my own and I must choose how I use it to mould my Malawi. My voice carries messages from my home and my community. My voice speaks for me, my family, for my generation and future generations. My voice says â€œI am a concerned and active Malawianâ€. The alternative of silence costs more. It costs quality basic services and encourages poor leadership. The absence of voices is the absence of democracy.
My voice is a personal choice, but one that can decide your future. A Peaceful and prosperous Malawi begins with your voice.