Today, the International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) joins the rest of the world in marking the International Youth Day under the theme ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’. We asked some members of the Youth Action Movement (YAM), a youth arm of IPPFAR’s volunteer body to share their perspectives on youth engagement. This is a conversation with Erasmo Mbemba, YAM member from Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM).
In your opinion, what does meaningful youth engagement mean and why is it important?
Erasmo: Meaningful youth engagement means treating young people as colleagues and equals. To me, young people need to be part of all processes from the beginning to the end. These processes include planning, decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Young people should have the same rights as everyone else, such as the equal right to speak and contribute to all processes without being undermined. This helps to build their confidence and groom capable and experienced leaders.
How has IPPFAR and your Member Association fostered youth engagement?
Erasmo: IPPFAR and Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) are doing a lot to ensure meaningful youth engagement.
They have created a platform where young people are a part of the governing bodies, Board of Trustees at regional, national and district levels. They have invested in building the capacities of young people, thus enabling them to effectively contribute to both organizations. IPPFAR and FPAM have created spaces where young people can meet and discuss issues affecting them, while at the same time engage adult mentors to help them grow as individuals and teams. I am a beneficiary of all these processes.
How can young people be more involved in decision-making processes?
Erasmo: There is need to invest in more capacity building initiatives for young people through trainings and mentorship programs, because if young people lack information and skills they may not contribute effectively even when included in all processes and spaces. Capacity building and creating opportunities for young people to take up high-level leadership roles in an organizations (NGOs), private sector, political, community and religious institutions will help to speed youth engagement.