Thursday, 18 July 2013

"Yes, Malala, we're listening" - youth participation

This blog, written by Wikichild co-ordinator Melinda George, is part of the Wikiprogress Series on child well-being. It focuses on three necessary steps to increase youth participation: listening, involvement in decision-making and involvement in the implementation.

Have you ever witnessed a child tugging on his or her parent’s clothes, soliciting a moment of attention? How long does it take for this primary caregiver to acknowledge the child’s presence? And then how much longer until this person, responsible for the child’s well-being, responds “yes, dear, I’m listening”, if ever? 

If our objective is to improve the lives and well-being of children, then we need to acknowledge their presence and take the necessary steps to include them in our efforts.

Listening to the youth is the first step in increasing youth participation.

Hear part of Malala Yousafzai's speech to the General Assembly:

All children have a voice, and we should do more to seek it out. Last week’s youth takeover at the UN General Assembly on “Malala Day” represents more than just a girl’s stand for education. Young people have been advocating for more rights and better treatment for centuries. The difference is that now we hear them. We are listening to what they have to say and are praising their efforts at an international level, at least those who speak loudly enough. We need to expand our audible range to go farther and deeper.

Youth involvement in the policy-making process is the second step.

We have been saying for years that youth involvement is an important factor in generating sustainable progress. Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan of action on sustainable development for the 21st century [i], states that “youth comprise nearly 30 per cent of the world's population. The involvement of today's youth in environment and development decision-making and in the implementation of programmes is critical to the long-term success of Agenda 21”[ii]. It also states that beyond their intellectual contribution and their ability to mobilise support, children and young people bring unique perspectives which need to be taken into account. This report was written over 20 years ago.

This month, Wikichild hosted an online discussion entitled How should child well-being be measured in view of future development frameworks? Several participants mentioned the need to involve young people when deciding how to measure well-being and to include "having a voice" as an indicator. 

The discussion was launched at the HBSC 30th Anniversary Event, which discussed and executed youth participation. First, the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People presented the “7 Golden Rules for Participation” (see slides below).

Also at the event, HBSC welcomed a panel of youth from Canada, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England, who presented a video on how they have been participatory in the decision-making process 
(see video below).


The audience, full of child well-being experts, had countless questions about how young people could be better supported by schools, parents, relevant agencies and the community during this transitional adolescent period. The exchange was enriching, with the main message of support us, trust us and ask us.
Here's a quote from the Wikichild online discussion: 
We need to ask young people in a more systematic and constructive way. They need to be involved in the development and the implementation of well-being measures.” 
- HBSC Event Participant

The third step is to involve youth in the implementation process.

Empowering youth so that they may be involved in the implementation procedure is the final stage of youth participation. A report by the Youth Visioning for Island Living (YVIL) states that young people, while dynamic and innovative, “often lack the concrete skills and tools necessary to implement their ideas[iii].”  We should find out what skills and tools the youth are lacking and then do what we can to make them readily available. Reaching this level of involvement requires time, training and investment, but it’s worth it.

These three steps should loop around, as we listen to feedback from young people in order to continuously improve the means by which youth can participate in the decision-making and implementation of  programs.

But first thing’s first ... Go ahead, youth, we’re listening. 

Melinda Deleuze
Wikichild co-ordinator

 [i] Agenda 21 was drawn up after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992
[ii] Chapter 25 of Section III of Agenda 21, entitled “Children & Youth in Sustainable Development”
[iii] Supporting Youth in the Implementation of Sustainable Development Activities (following the review of the SIDS programme of action, Mauritius 2005), initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

1 comment:

  1. Malala Yousafzai has inspired many Pakistani young girls to get education and to struggle for it. She is a hope