Youth Participation as a human right?
We kicked off the session by quizzing our participants about their understanding of MIYP. In a poll during the session, 44% of the respondents answered that youth participation is not a human right. Is it maybe another topic we all need to advocate for to get it into a Human Rights Convention?
Meaningful and Inclusive Youth Participation is not only something that is at the core of CHOICE’s being and a vital part of the work we all do, it is an actual human right. Young people are diverse rights holders, and meaningful youth participation is a right of all young people by the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
This was an opening statement by Pragya Singh from the ambitious and bold youth-led organisation CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality. Pragya continued by taking us through what youth participation means and what mechanisms need to be in place to make sure participation is meaningful and inclusive. And since a metaphor goes a long way, we dived deeper into the Flower of Participation, a method developed by CHOICE with support from YouAct.
The Flower of Participation helps us understand and strengthen MIYP in programmes and organisations while looking at the five core elements of MIYP: information, voice, freedom of choice, decision-making power, and responsibility. Instead of sensing to what extent a program, organisation, or intervention is designed in a participatory and inclusive way when it comes down to youth participation, we can rate these core elements and analyse which form of youth participation is in place. And so we did. Five cases, over 40 opinions, and one main takeaway: the Flower of Participation gives us a simple and self-explanatory tool to use for our own programs and organisations.
Cup of Inspiration
What can we learn from other examples and practices around the globe? How do other organisations and partnerships work around MIYP and what challenges do they encounter? As several speakers gave us some inspiring examples to chew on, a bright question from the crowd pointed us to an interesting black spot in our thinking.
Eddie Krooneman, Senior Policy Officer for Youth, Education and Work from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, took us through 2 examples. Both the Youth at Heart and the International Youth Advisory Committee examples show us how important it is to form a diverse and inclusive program. The Youth at Heart principles have been developed by approximately 1200 young people from East- and Horn of Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and the Sahel Regions, while the Youth Advisory Committee is formed by nine young people, from nine different countries.
Hawah Maria, Kenyan Youth Executive Board, showed us a great example of a diverse decision-making mechanism for youth that is compensated for the work they do. ‘We go further than providing advice or input. We are fully involved in the annual work planning processes to ensure that the activities are aligned with the needs of young people. We attend the activities of the country partners and all capacity strengthening workshops of the coalition and do much more’.
‘But how do you make sure that you recruit a diverse group without only usual suspects?’
A question asked by Nyatuwe Phiri – Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation.
Hawah explained that the members of the board went through a rigorous process to ensure the most appropriate balance of gender, region, inclusivity, and diversity in representation. ‘However, this remains a challenge. The interest of the young people equally matters. Unfortunately, most young people from certain backgrounds are not interested in SHRH and so it becomes hard to involve them’, she replies.
Mistaking representation for participation is not something unfamiliar to the other example that was shared: the role of the Youth Ambassador on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. A position formed in collaboration between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and CHOICE. I held this position in 2017/2018 and explained why appointing one person or a small group of young people is misleading when seen as an actual representation of the large and diverse group of young people.
Continuing the radar quest
So how do we get the unusual suspects on our radar? A question that is hard to answer. Especially because the usual suspect challenge is not only about the youth we (aim to) work with, but also the participants that joined this session. How do we make sure we get more unusual suspects to sessions on MIYP?
During the cups of inspiration, a brief brainstorming was taking place in the chat suggesting ways of getting the unusual suspects on our radar and broadening our community. Lauren Pope from Waste NL suggested creating easy ways to digest awareness creation packages to attract the more unusual suspects. Others suggested we might need to reframe a session to attract a broader audience and build a more diverse community to keep the movement going. An easy action we can all take up on: bring your unusual suspect as a plus one to any event on MIYP or organize your own brown bag lunch sessions on MIYP. Let’s broader our radar together!
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