Research Blog: ‘Meaningful Youth Participation – not just a buzz word. How CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality works with MYP inside and out’

Posted by Caitlin C McCollow on September 13, 2018 at 3:54 pm



MYP is concept that is not widely understood and CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality are here to change that! MYP, or Meaningful Youth Participation simply means that young people can participate in organizations and decision making processes on equal terms as adults or independently. MYP does not occur out of nowhere- it must be actively fostered in an enabling environment.

MYP is empowering for young people and their communities, it can create job opportunities and it can contribute towards strong personal development. Society also benefits as a whole by reducing generational gaps, promoting active citizenship and by bringing fresh perspectives to the table. From the perspective of youth organizations, establishing MYP is shown to strengthen organization capacity and increase the reach, relevance and effectiveness of their projects. MYP is a right of all young people according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. That means that in theory young people should be involved in programming and policy making which relates to them – and at all stages of this process: design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation!

This is where CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality comes in. CHOICE is an MYP power house– if I may say so myself. CHOICE advocate for MYP mainly through two streams: international advocacy and youth led capacity strengthening. As a Youth Advocate for CHOICE I volunteer my time along with a pool of 18 other advocates. Now, what do we actually do as youth advocates? Some members are very actively working on the international advocacy lobbying the United Nations and others are supporting our internal structures fostering development within our team. We all have the chance to get involved in trainings to build and hone our skills as well as to facilitate trainings internationally. Advocates are also involved in youth led SRHR activism and of course promoting MYP!

Our ultimate aim is to develop a youth movement and eliminate the exclusion of young people from engaging in decision making processes, especially in the field of SRHR. One way this happens is through the facilitation of youth led trainings. Together with our partners CHOICE developed the training manual The A-Z of MYP. The training provides tools to analyse the extent that MYP is embedded on an organizational level and it includes a checklist to implement these conditions.

A new manual is currently underway which promotes Youth Leadership Skills and personal development of youth advocates around the world. At the end of April this year, I was selected along with a fellow advocate Leander and our program coordinator Nathalie to facilitate the first pilot of our Youth Leadership Skills manual. The facilitation took place in Malawi with the Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (CYECE). CYECE are a dedicated and vibrant youth organization who fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights in Malawi. The purpose of the five day training of trainers was to guide CYECE staff on how to utilize the Youth Leadership skills manual in order to deliver Youth Leadership Skills trainings themselves amongst the young people they
work with. Although CHOICE were the facilitators in this case, the learning is multidirectional as we too gain knowledge from our participants. As it was a pilot training, we were able to adapt the manual according to their feedback in a style of co-creation.

The core components of the 5 day training were:

  • Experiential learning – learning experience and reflection;
  • Personal development – realising the leader you want to be and can be;
  • Youth leadership skills – including but not exclusive to: evaluating evidence,
    motivating others and giving feedback.
  • Juncture – an advocacy simulation developed by CHOICE whereby you practice
    community advocacy in the imaginary district of Arun

For me, as a young person this experience was incredibly fulfilling. Not only did I learn about youth leadership, I was empowered to take the responsibility of a youth leader. As this was my first time facilitating a multi-day training, I was nervous that I would stumble over my words or miss steps in the sessions. Of course this happened sometimes, but I had a strong team to lean on and support me when I faltered. Every day I felt as if I was improving through: self-reflection, learning through doing and from the feedback of my fellow CHOICERs as well as the comments from our wonderful participants. Coming out of this week, I feel much more comfortable speaking in front of a group, reading the energy in a room and improvising when sessions don’t go to plan. I developed personally from the youth leadership skills too – taking on board lessons in argumentation, negotiation, opositional analysis and presentation skills to name a few.

The idea is now that we will continue to roll out the Youth Leadership Skills manual amongst our partners. The learning cycle keeps moving as new youth advocates amongst CHOICE are given the opportunity to facilitate these trainings. The model we incorporate, the take two principal means that an experienced and inexperienced youth advocate are paired in order to ensure the skills keep being passed along. CYECE have already begun to bring the Youth Leadership Skills exercises into their work, training staff and young people using the manual. Facilitation sessions have been planned with our partners in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Indonesia through-out the summer. Being part of an organization like CHOICE makes the world feel like a smaller, better place. Being connected to young people who care about the issues I care about means a lot to me but as well as that being part of CHOICE enables me to actually be involved, meaningfully participate and grow as an advocate. Capacity strengthening of youth organisations is also only one part of the work we do. While the work CHOICE does is varied its goal is very clear – to push for MYP in SRHR spaces.

Written by Anna Devereux (anna@choiceforyouth.org)

Get in contact with our program coordinator Nathalie Metheuver via
nathalie@choiceforyouth.org if you would like to learn more about the training packages
offered by CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality in the Netherlands or Internationally.