When it comes to youth participation in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) young people’s voices are often muffled and, in some cases, considered by decisionmakers to be irrelevant, insignificant, or just immature. This perspective cripples the very reason that young people need to be involved in SRH policymaking—to have their ideas and experiences heard and valued by decisionmakers.

Workshops and empowerment trainings too often fall into the trap of telling young people what to do; these trainings fail to consider that, through their experiences, young people can provide useful knowledge to the policymaking process. The Policy Communication Toolkit’s Do’s and Don’ts guidelines seek to reconstruct this experience by outlining how workshop leaders and program staff can better guide and train young people to be empowered in the decisionmaking and policy implementation processes. The guidelines also provide insights on how policymakers can more meaningfully engage youth in decisionmaking to create greater SRH impacts.

Do…

  • Give credit to youth when it’s due.
  • Listen to young people’s needs.
  • Believe in the value of youth.
  • Have an open mind when engaging with young people.
  • Incorporate youth’s feedback throughout the decisionmaking process.
  • Engage with youth who have a variety of perspectives.
  • Acknowledge all response while engaging with young people.
  • Use modes of communication that young people prefer, such as social media.
  • Provide opportunity for critical thinking and dialogue during discussions with you.
  • Give young people the time and background information they need to participate meaningfully.
  • Involve young people not just on “youth issues” but on all issues that affect their lives, communities, and futures
  • Recognize that engaging youth may mean covering their costs and compensating them for their time.
  • Approach work with youth as a partnership.

Don’t…

  • Misrepresent youth’s perspectives with your own opinions.
  • Imagine that youth don’t know how to voice their needs.
  • Underestimate young people’s capacity, skills, and knowledge; their dreams are valid.
  • Overlook youth perspectives that differ from your expectations.
  • Use young people’s ideas without engaging them in the decisionmaking process.
  • Expect one person to represent all young people.
  • Accept only the youth perspectives you were hoping to hear.
  • Give long explanations or speak in clichés while interacting with young people.
  • Rush through discussions or presentations with young people just to complete a session.
  • Ask youth to attend a meeting and then not give them time on the agenda to participate.
  • Forget that involving youth in policymaking, programs, and other activities will strengthen your outcomes.
  • Expect young people to volunteer their time.
  • Assume that your age automatically makes you a mentor to young people.
 

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