IPPF European Network has developed a youth-centred approach (YCA) toolkit with the aim of improving the confidence and capacity of young people and adults to implement, upgrade and expand youth participation in our members.
Here is what Margaux, youth officer for the ‘Mouvement Français pour le Planning Familial’ (MFPF), had to say about how the youth-centred approach changed how young people are included in her organisation.
Learning throughout life is important
For me personally, the toolkit and the coaching workshop with member associations made a big difference. I felt stimulated and it helped me structure my work. To implement a youth focused approach it is important to make space for young people and to trust them. It can take a long time, but it is worth it.
I liked the fact that the toolkit promotes intergenerational relationships and exchanges, that it addresses power dynamics, how to work together. Although some parts may seem obvious, they are still important to be reminded of. For example, the importance of giving feedback and how to give a good feedback.
Youth in decision-making spaces
The structure of the MFPF comes with its own set of challenges. The youth group is set up at the national level so it can take some time to see results at the local level, where we have more than 70 associations. It takes a lot of effort to ensure we all know what each of us is doing so we don’t loose track of great initiatives.
Our biggest accomplishment was also our biggest challenge: to give the youth group voting rights in governance bodies. It took a lot of advocacy and time to grant the youth group this voice and to include it in the legal status. Each local association has a vote, and each member of the youth group is part of a different local association. It was hard to legitimate their representation, in terms of equity - the young activists were already represented through their local association’s mandate, but we wanted to go further for them to have a specific recognition to make their voice as young people more visible. And we did it!
We were also able to create an action plan and implement it. We’re very proud of that, and we are very hopeful when it comes to youth representation at all levels. Now, the youth group is more structured and more visible, a while back people didn’t even know the youth group existed. We’re in a position to debunk prejudice against young people, and what they want. Visibility is essential. The next ideal step for us would be to create youth groups at the local level.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 it was harder to find a good work dynamic. Usually, 25-30 people get involved in our youth activities, but this year, we didn’t have a rise in number of people interested in the youth group. But despite these new constraints, the action plan gave us better tools for communication, and made it much easier!
There are no small accomplishments: a 'step-by-step' approach is essential
What I would recommend to other organisations that wish to put young people at the centre of their work, is to look at things in perspective, to take the time to analyse. There are no small accomplishments: a 'step-by-step' approach is essential. You can start slow, with a newsletter, for instance, to shed light on the youth group’s activities. In our case, it allows us to see how much progress we do and it increases the visibility of our work.
It’s also crucial to look for allies and people who want to work with young people. In order to get around the fear of change, we need to identify the key people who can help us move forward and support our activities. Sometimes the idea that young people are unable to commit causes fear. But in reality, voluntary commitment isn’t always easy especially for young people, who are students, who may be in a precarious situation. From an age group to another, the realities are very different, but it doesn’t mean that the youth doesn’t want to get involved: sometimes, they cannot afford to. That’s actually a sign that we need to think about other means of engagement.
Interview conducted by Manon Kayser, IPPF EN