The Involvement of young people in making decisions, especially when it has to do with decisions that affect them, can never be over emphasised especially in a time like today. Young people, when empowered to play a vital role in their own development as well as that of their communities, helps them to learn vital life-skills, develop knowledge on human rights and citizenship and to promote positive civic action. 

Youth participation is crucial for addressing social issues because of the following: 

1. Unique perspectives: Young people bring fresh ideas, unique perspectives, and innovative solutions to complex problems, fostering creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Especially in cases where they are affected directly, they become motivated to solve problems that they are facing in order to cause long term benefits for themselves and their societies. Establishing youth advisory councils enables youth to voice their opinions and contribute directly at different levels.The Youth Council for Programme Design by RHF, is a practical example of this. Youths at different levels across different Nigerian Universities were selected to advice on the best way to structure the Young Historian Competition. Now because the Young Historian Competition  is youth focused and youth led, it was important to get youth involvement in the planning phase of the competition. The members of the council co-designed the project with the organization, by contributing to the logframe, and actively participating in the problem tree analysis. The council members also made suggestions as to when it would be best time to hold an inter university competition, through  a baseline assessment, and in doing so, they brought a unique perspective and input to the Young Historian Competition. Other organizations that have adopted youth councils include; UN,EU,AU,Plan and co. 

2. Empowerment: Involving youth in decision-making processes gives them a sense of ownership and empowerment, leading to increased engagement and commitment in finding sustainable solutions, in their communities and their societies at large. In the words of a youth council member of the YC4PD , he said ‘If more youths were given the opportunity to participate in making decisions to solve problems in our country, Nigeria will be a better place by now’.

3. Long-term impact: Social issues often affect future generations the most. By involving youths  in problem-solving, we ensure that solutions are relevant, effective, sustainable and long lasting in the long run.

4. Catalysts for change: Youth have the energy, passion, and drive to challenge the status quo, driving positive social change and inspiring others to get involved2. Young people are their biggest motivation and they have the biggest capacity to influence themselves for a cause. 

5. Diverse representation: Youth participation ensures diverse representation, amplifying the voices of marginalized groups, promoting inclusivity, and addressing social inequalities. Although this can be most challenging in terms of having a representation across all spheres of the society’s social status. It is however, still important not to overlook the representation of young people. 

6. Skill development: Engaging in social issues equips young people with valuable skills like critical thinking, leadership, collaboration, and problem-solving, fostering personal growth and enhancing employability. In the long run, generally enhancing the personal and professional skills of youths. Most youth councils have a structured plan for engaging their council members. Council members usually undergo trainings to develop and build their skills personally and professionally. In the YC4PD , council members were trained on a number of personal and professional skills such as; team work, effective communication and leveraging the internet space. Council members shared on several occasions how these skills were of immense benefit to them while collaborating as a team while working in the council but also they shared how learning those skills have been useful to them in school. You can find more about the Restored Heart Foundations Youth council for Programme design in a recent report published by the Restored Heart Foundation2.

There is a need, especially in recent times, to recognize and begin to see young people as a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic growth and technological innovation.

Youth participation can be strengthened by including youth in the design, implementation, monitoring, reporting and evaluation of instruments, strategies and programmes. In the public sector, private sector and the development space.  Here are active examples  that can be employed to strengthen youth engagement as recommended by USAID,Youth in Development Policy (2012)3.

  • Developing a small working group of ‘Champions’ within the organization dedicated to youth engagement. 
  • Actively maintain a current mapping of youth engagement activities 
  • Actively maintain youth-focused web presence combined with social media initiatives 
  • Develop a youth advisory council (YAC)
  • Increase Support for young employees and interns 
  • Support youth lead organizations and initiatives 
  • Increase youth Involvement in design, implementation and evaluation activities 

Organizations such as the UN,Plan, Restored Heart Foundation,  through the Youth Council for Programme Design (YC4PD) and many others are championing youth engagements in programme design and subscribe to active youth participation in their programmes and activities. Results of this have birthed tremendous impact on host communities and societies and also impacted the young participants by not just giving them  personal and professional development but also instilling the zeal and passion for solving social issues in their society. 

By recognizing the importance of youth participation, we can promote inclusivity and contribute to a more prosperous and equitable future for all.




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