Student government is a powerful catalyst for a lifetime of activism, no matter where you reside. Aaron Weah-Weah was student government president at his high school in Monrovia, Liberia, and continued his involvement in college, where he lobbied for the reintroduction of student political activities, which had been banned due to past student violence. Thanks to his efforts, the ban was lifted, and his fellow students could again express themselves by forming political groups and electing a representative council.
When he was just 21, Aaron successfully led efforts to add a provision to Liberia’s election law that increased poll access for disabled voters in the 2005 elections — a critical year for Liberia that marked the end of the country’s political transition following its bloody 14-year civil conflict.
In 2010, Aaron led a campaign consisting of public debates, social media advocacy, public speeches and peaceful demonstrations in support of the African Youth Charter that led to the presentation of the Liberia National Youth Policy documents to Liberia’s legislature for passage into law.
Today, he is a 29-year-old activist and a Project Officer at the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections-Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE-PADD), a NED grantee and one of Liberia’s leading youth advocacy and pro-democracy NGOs.
NAYMOTE has helped foster Liberia’s democratic transition with an extensive range of innovative programs that help young people and rural communities participate in local government. Its staff and volunteers visit schools to discuss democratic principles and set up School Democracy Clubs, which inculcate civic values, leadership skills, and responsible citizenship. They hold Alternative Dispute Resolution workshops to promote reconciliation and empower rural communities to settle their disputes peacefully outside of the courts.
S. Aaron Weah-Weah, III
In May 2012, NAYMOTE launched its version of Oregon’s “Bus Project,” a voter registration drive that added more than 100,000 American voters to the rolls. In Liberia, the NAYMOTE bus goes from community to community registering voters and helping citizens educate themselves about political issues and electoral rules. “I learned that volunteering and collective efforts yield bigger results,” observed Aaron, who worked on the project.
In late 2012 Aaron became the first Hurford Youth Fellow after being selected out of 219 applicants. He spent three months at NED in Washington, DC, working with the World Youth Movement for Democracy. During his time in Washington, he facilitated online discussions between activists, conducted research on topics such as the role of youth in policy development, wrote articles and developed strategies to improve the impact of the World Youth Movement. His outstanding work led to his being selected to moderate a panel on “Fighting Against Corruption” at the globally attended Seventh Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
The quote that most inspires Aaron is from Ghandi, “whatever we do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that we do it.” In a country where half the population of four million is under the age of 18, models of democratic youth activism like Aaron Weah-Weah’s are sure to have an outsized impact in the years to come.