‘It is time for power sharing’: young people at General Assembly call for meaningful participation

Young people attending the SOS Children’s Villages General Assembly called for greater youth participation in governance and decision-making bodies within the organization and beyond.

Eleven young people, members of the International Youth Coalition and some of them leaders of care leaver networks in their countries, presented a ‘call to action’ and vision for participation during the 22nd General Assembly – the highest governing body of SOS Children’s Villages.  

“It is our future that you shape, so it is more than fair for us to be there when it is time to make decisions,” said Nadira, who works with marginalized communities in her country, Bangladesh. “We know our challenges and the challenges of the communities where we belong.”

"Strong changemakers"

The young people addressed the 300 participants at the General Assembly, held on 3-5 July in Innsbruck, Austria, in a panel session titled “Young, Loud and Strong: Meaningful Youth Participation for Good and Accountable Governance.”

Coming with the message: ‘It’s time for power sharing’, the young people in their call to action said, by 2025, every country, at a national level, should establish strong youth-led bodies, such as care leaver networks and youth councils. Representatives of the bodies should participate meaningfully in local, national, regional and global decision-making bodies.

In addition, young people and care leavers should attend as delegates to the SOS Children’s Villages General Assembly, holding approximately 10% of the total vote, they said.

To achieve this, the organization should invest more in youth-led structures and initiatives, prepare young people and leaders, ensure exchange and joint decision making, and monitor results to ensure transparency and accountability.

“We are strong changemakers and we are experienced in our own lives,” said Marcela of Italy, a member of the Applying Safe Behaviours project. “We want to be part of all the decisions that regard us because we have great ideas for you.”

Challenges young people encounter

The young people shared their common challenges, such as a lack of financial literacy, job skills, employment opportunities, and personal networks, as well as being unprepared for the digital world.

“Young people have locally relevant ideas and solutions,” explained Nadira. “If they are given responsibility, they will contribute to positive change. SOS Children’s Villages and stakeholders can empower youth to become agents of change in their communities.”

Iresha, who leads a care leaver network in Sri Lanka, said: “Many young people are not aware of youth participation opportunities.”

Mercy, a nursing school graduate who leads a care leaver network in Uganda, added: “For us to be more excited about youth participation, we need feedback on our input. Feedback mechanisms which are shaped in youth friendly formats and structures would be very good.”

Gregor Nitihardjo, the National Director of SOS Children’s Villages in Indonesia, said on the panel that young people need to have a voice in the development of any national programme strategies. He believes donors and funders will respond better to proposals where children and young people have played a role in shaping the programmes that benefit them. Additionally, “young people would feel they have ownership of the programme,” Gregor said.


Imagine a world with meaningful youth participation

To address youth participation, the young people asked the delegates to close their eyes as they presented their vision of the future. They asked them to imagine, by 2030, a world where:

  • Young people are seen as legitimate and critical contributors in decision making,
  • Students have support in shaping their educational journeys and making career choices of their own,
  • Youth are involved in policy making and in creating solutions,
  • Issues of young people who belong in the LGBTQI community are recognized, and they have a safe space to express themselves,
  • Mentorship and collaboration are a norm,
  • The world is characterized by optimism, hope, a deep belief in the youth,
  • Youth led organizations are supported, funded and making positive change,
  • There is mutual respect, and strong sense of unity,
  • Stakeholders are building a just and sustainable future with young people, with a shared vision,
  • Youth participation is understood not as a privilege, but a right.

Finally, the young people asked that each delegate write down a commitment or action they will take to have young people meaningfully participate.

By making sure that there is meaningful youth participation, trust will be built, opening doors for positive change in the world.

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