Inclusion of Young people’s voices in decision making

DAC Team

The last year and a half has been hard on everyone. People are feeling isolated, deserted and lost. And it’s no different for adolescents and young people. However, what makes it harder for them in a lot of ways is that there aren’t enough people to hear them out. This has pushed them into a state of despair and hopelessness.

At Dasra Adolescents Collaborative (DAC), we have been able to understand this from our interactions with young people over the last couple of months. Between mid- May and now, we’ve spoken to nearly 200 young people from rural and remote parts of Jharkhand, Bihar, Rajasthan and a few other states about the impact of Covid-19 on their lives, the disruption it has caused, and how they are coping with it. Through these sessions with the young people, we have heard that a lot of them are shifting between emotions such as:

      • Boredom due to lack of engagement with peers or opportunities to go out

      • Anger due to lack of control over the situation and the consequences

      • Anxiety due to lack of clarity about the future

      • Despair due to lack of hope for a bright future

Young people are worried about the opportunities they have lost and may continue to lose over the next few months or even years with the devastating long term effects on the economy; there is fear about the continued spread of the virus, it’s variants and the possibility of a third wave; there are myths, rumours and misinformation about the efficacy and availability of the vaccine; and there is disappointment towards the government in how they’ve handled the situation in some parts of the country.

India’s young people are not alone in struggling with these feelings and fears. Globally, the pandemic has been extremely harsh on young people. According to the UNICEF Annual Report 2020, released last month, 1 in 7 children and young people has lived under stay-at-home policies for most of 2020.

Up to 94% of students worldwide have been affected by school closures at the height of the pandemic.

 

At least 1 in 3 schoolchildren has been unable to access remote learning while their schools were closed. Around 10 million additional child marriages may occur before the end of the decade. Disruptions in food systems and health and nutrition services could leave 44 million children hungry. As many as 142 million additional children were estimated to fall into monetary poverty by the end of 2020 and lack access to social protection.

This avalanche of data points should not scare us, but it should worry us. Unfortunately, the pandemic and its consequences have had financial, physical, social, emotional and psychological impact on the lives of young people. Even as they struggle with these emotions, they feel left out from conversations and decision making processes that impact their lives. We as community members and development practitioners can support young people through the challenges they’re faced with.

While it is true that practitioners who have been in the sector for a time long may rightly feel that we know what’s best for them. We must ask ourselves what could be the value add of hearing from young people themselves what’s best for them? What harm would it do if we heard directly from them on their challenges, needs and aspirations? Maybe what we hear from them validates what we already knew, but maybe there is something new that we hear or something that we hadn’t thought about.

As a nation and sector that talks about the strength and the need for investment in our large young population, we must also trust them to make decisions for themselves, and ensure that we create and hold platforms and safe spaces for them to voice their opinions. There is an urgent to engage with young people and allow them to speak their minds freely. We need to create safe spaces for them where they can raise their concern, feel heard and have their queries answered.

This has been part of our learning at DAC too, over the last few years. Every year, we are taking a step forward to be more inclusive and engage with young people in a meaningful way. The Ab Meri Baari campaign, which started in 2019, was the first step in that direction. Since then, we’ve come a long way; and the pandemic, especially, has made it even more crucial for us to ensure that young people have platforms to share their views, to get answers to their questions and that we, at DAC, involve them when we make decisions that may impact their lives. Keeping this ethos in mind, this year we’ve committed to establishing a Young People Working Group, to include their perspectives on challenges and solutions for DAC’s immediate and longer-term COVID responses. Keeping young people’s voices at the core of programming is more vital now than ever before, as they have the deepest understanding of their own needs and challenges, and can support in identifying and executing the most effective solutions to address these as we focus on rebuilding a more hopeful world for young people.

Reference Example for easy understanding

Table 1

The policy gap(s) addressed by the program

The exclusion of young people in the decision-making process for policy issues surrounding adolescents

Community need(s) addressed by the program

Greater awareness and understanding of adolescent issues regarding their education, sexual and reproductive health, and early marriage

Opportunity for innovation addressed by the program

The opportunity to bring and work together with critical stakeholders on a single platform

Table 2

Day-to-day program activities

Stakeholder management, vendor management

Periodic program activities

Monitoring, Reporting, Training of Personnel

One-off program activities

Government advocacy, designing campaigns

Tools/frameworks/systems & processes/ways of working from the program

Systems Change Framework

Table 3

Program practices

Is the practice impactful? If yes, list down why?

Is the practice sustainable? If yes, list down why?   

Is the practice scalable? If yes, list down why?  

Is the practice innovative and/or unique? If yes, list down why?  

Youth-led social audits and presenting youth-centric priorities directly to decision makers

Yes, as it allows young people to directly engage with decision makers and contribute to the decision-making process

Yes, as it equips young people with leadership skills. It is also cost effective due to the long-term gains it offers upon initial investment

Yes, as such training modules can be replicated across multiple initiatives by other practitioners & organizations. In addition, trained young people can also train other young people

Yes, as it follows an approach which centers its design and delivery around young people, in an end-to-end manner

+

+

+

+

+

Table 4

Promising Practice

Youth-led social audits and presenting youth-centric priorities directly to decision makers to: (i) create a platform for youth to exercise their agency (ii) effectively engage decision makers

Source

  • Verbal evidence from community
  • Verbal feedback from on-ground team members
  • Project report & surveys

Details

Community feedback of adolescents feeling confident, understood, and acknowledge

On-ground team feedback on creation of government champions for the project’s objectives

Project report and surveys observe greater youth involvement and efficacy in engaging directly with decision maker

Table 5

RECOMMENDATIONS

Promising Practice

Youth-led social audits and presenting youth-centric priorities directly to decision makers to: (i) create a platform for youth to exercise their agency (ii) effectively engage decision makers

The demographic it addresses

Adolescents from the age of 10 to 19 years

The gap/ need/ opportunity it addresses

The exclusion of adolescents and young people in the decision-making process for policy issues regarding adolescents and young people

Govt stakeholders

Holding consultations with critical stakeholders and young people from the inception of a program

Funders

Taking inputs from all stakeholders and young people before initiating a new project to ensure a deeper visibility and understanding of their demographic and its needs

Other Practitioners

Engaging young people in decision-making processes to adopt a more collaborative approach between stakeholders and young people

Community Stakeholders

Undertaking youth-led social audits and engagement with decision makers to engage directly with young people, understand their needs & concerns and influence change at the community level

5

Objective Review

Outcome

Promising Practices and recommendations ratified by at least one member/ partner organization/ community/ MEL partners outside of ‘the team’

5

Objective Review

Objective

To validate the final promising practice and recommendation(s) by at least one person/ partner organization/ community/ MEL partners outside of the team.

4

Document

Outcome

2-3 promising practices documenting:

 

  • What gap/need is addressed
  • How it is addressed and the change that is created
  • The potential for replicating along with recommendations for implementing

4

Document

Objective

To document the promising practices in a detailed manner

3

Develop into a recommendation

Outcome

Well-articulated recommendation(s) addressing:

 

  • Demographic to cater to
  • Gaps/needs/opportunities addressed by the practice
  • The change brought in by implementing such a practice

3

DEVELOP INTO A RECOMMENDATION

Objective

To construct a recommendation in a brief, specific and clear-cut format which would assist other initiatives in implementing the same

2

CALIBRATE & SUBSTANTIATE

Outcome

Obtaining qualitative and/or quantitative data to assess the promise of the shortlisted practices according to the five guiding factors

Arriving at first list of promising practices

2

CALIBRATE & SUBSTANTIATE

Objective

To substantiate the shortlisted practices by collating gathered data in the form of:

 

  • Feedback from the community
  • Verbal accounts of the ground team
  • Documentation reports
  • Other valuable data

1

List & Shortlist

Outcome

Identifying:

  • Policy gaps
  • Community needs
  • Opportunities for innovation and other aspects that the program is addressing.

    Creating a list of program practices that are working on-ground in bridging gaps/needs/opportunities.

1

List & Shortlist

Objective

To identify gaps/needs/opportunities and to shortlist program practices that are impactful, sustainable, scalable, innovative and/or unique.