Young people should not make their decisions; they should wait for the adults to decide for them!
This is one of the topics that created debate among the participants in a workshop organized by the Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum-UYAHF with support from Right Here Right Now Partnership and Dance for Life a Dutch based youth serving NGO on 20-21 at Grand Global Hotel in Kampala
In a typical African setting, an adult is always at the forefront of influencing decision making for the youth because the adults have a mentality that the young people have no experience in making critical decision.
However, in the current generation, the young people have defied the adults’ mentality and are now making their own decision without the input of the adults and the scenario is the same with the adult decision making.
This has trickled up to the policy makers who have made and passed policies for the young people without necessarily seeking their input. Because of this, some policies have been made and passed but have not had an impact because they do not address the needs of young people.
Having figured out this gap, we brought together both the youth and adult led organizations to discuss how we can achieve a Meaningful Youth Participation and adult-youth partnership in a workshop that brought together over 30 participants. This is under the Right Here Right Now platform to have a shared understanding of the concept and have concrete agreement on how to operationalize it.
“We have overtime observed that these two categories of people are always in strife and conflict. Where the adults think young people have no experience, lack information, are unserious and cannot be trusted as partners. On the other hand, the young people think that the adults are conservative, are selfish and manipulative.” Anna Kokundakwe, Programs manager Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum notes
The consortium members strongly believe that they have a voice as one of the roots to work because they have representation from youth led organizations on the platform.
They also believe that the voice of the young people is heard and have the power for decision making as evidenced by the 30% budget allocation to the youth led organizations. However, there is a general consensus that there is a gap in information sharing; generating feedback and this affects the individual organizational operations. As a solution to the information gap, the participants recommended creation of a communications department to support the network’s national coordinator.
Laura Angel Kyakunzire from the Ngabo Youth Friendly Services Centre noted that, the training opened her mind in understanding how the youth and the adults can work together. “I did not know about that the youth and the adults can work meaningfully. You know we (youth) have been having a feeling that the adults are selfish don’t wish us well in our decisions, but from this meeting, I have learnt that both parties can work together in decision making.” She says
Aisha Nalubega the Uganda Health Science Press Association Project Officer says that the training exposed her to engaging participants in workshop without boring them, and at the same time educating them.
“The workshop was participatory and practical which is quite different from the workshops I have attended. Most facilitators use projectors, power points and group works as a mode of presentation. But I learnt that engaging participants through skits and team work is the best way.” she says
She adds that she will pass on the knowledge gained from the work shop to her colleagues at her organization. “We have been organizing workshops and trainings for participants especially the key populations without considering their other er engagements. Through the skit, I have learnt that we need to change this and be flexible so that we meet at a time that is most convenient for them.” Aisha notes
Young people not only have the right to participate, there’s also an advantage of their involvement and in this case their involvement should be meaningful: if the voices of young people are is heard, programs and policies can become more effective and can be adapted to meet their actual needs and aspirations of the young people. Most programs that are developed for young people are not developed by or with young people . This limits the effectiveness of the program.
Patrick Mwesigye Team Leader – UYAHF, notes that, Meaningfully involving young people requires to look at them as partners and appreciating that they have key contributions to make in the processes at hand.
To help solve this issue CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality has developed the Flower of Participation! The Flower of Participation is a tool that uses the metaphor of a bloom- ing flower to describe the different forms of youth participation and how it can grow and flourish in meaningful ways.
Some key element of meaningful youth participation that form the basic requirement include; freedom of choice, information, decision making power, voice and responsibility.
As a youth organization whose mandate among others is to advocate for meaningful youth participation, Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum believes meaningful youth participation can happen when young people and adults work together as partners, with each group respecting the values of one another and trusting each other.