Engage Youth: A Discussion Paper on Meaningful Youth Engagement

When young people are asked to articulate the barriers they face to meaningful youth engagement, to identify the tools and resources that would help them in their advocacy efforts, and to imagine what their ideal world looks like when it comes to meaningful youth engagement, they have clear answers. They want trust and acceptance in their role at the decision-making table; true partnerships and opportunities for intergenerational dialogue; data, evidence, and youth-friendly research; media and communication tools and support; and technical and financial support and resources to more effectively fill their seat at the table. 

At the same time, it is clear that institutions who listen to and include young people in their decision-making are more likely to develop programs and policies that reflect young people’s experiences, making those programs more effective while also more efficiently using resources. In addition, experience shows that engaging young people as researchers, evaluators, advocates, and program designers can improve the quality and relevance of data collected and can increase program accountability and support.

The Women Deliver 2016 Global Conference brings together 5000+ world influencers and various stakeholders working on the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women to share their experiences, challenges, and visions in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There were than 1,000 young people under the age of 30 actively participating and contributing throughout the conference, and one of the important discussion items on the agenda is how to enhance meaningful youth engagement.

To better inform this discussion, Women Deliver conducted a consultation about youth engagement, which included a literature review, interviews with key stakeholders, and a survey with 600 young people — between the ages of 17-33 from 109 countries and every region of the world — within the organization’s existing network of young RHR advocates.

The goal of this work was to take the initial steps towards improving and enhancing youth engagement by better
understanding young people’s own perspectives on the barriers they face and their needs to effectively advocate and enhance their engagement, within the context of existing principles and practices. The result is a glimpse into the way young people themselves want to engage and be engaged, along with initial suggestions of what needs to be done to overcome the longstanding challenges preventing meaningful youth engagement. 

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