The Office of the Commissioner for
Children believes that the vote for 16 year olds empowers young people to
participate in important decisions that affect both themselves and others. In
this context, young people need to understand the value of their vote and its
impact on society in general.
It is thus now, more than ever,
imperative that educators, including parents, guardians and extended families,
take it upon themselves to encourage young people to think, criticize, commend
and be full members of the society they live in. We should be aiming at a
political society but not a partisan one, where the issue carries weight rather
that the politician talking about it.
As a society, we need to acknowledge
that at age 16, there are already a number of social responsibilities that are
automatically assumed by an individual. At sixteen years of age, an individual
can, amongst others:
as a trader and run a business;
and operate a bank account;
up a will;
held criminally responsible for any wrongdoing.
Moreover, if employed, a 16 year old
pays taxes, and should therefore expect representation. The National Children’s Policy,
launched last month, recognizes that children should be active citizens who
engage in the democratic process, social participation, environmental activism
and innovation, volunteering and social entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the
policy encourages views presented by children to be taken into account through
democratic participation by extending full voting rights to young people aged
The UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child insists on the child’s right to have an opinion that is listened to
as well as the right to association and affiliation with groups and
organizations of the child’s choice.