National Junior/Youth Seminar: An Arena For Youth Empowerment

When I was younger, I always thought adults were more vise and clever. I thought they had the correct answers and that I needed to learn how to be like them. My opinion was not the right one. Now I realize that the adults are following the societies’ norms. Norms they have learnt to follow by their seniors. Some of them might be good, but some of them need to change. How should youth adapt to societies’ norms? How should the opinion of youth be treated? About 160 youth and junior volunteers from 50 out of 75 district in Nepal met last week for the National Junior Youth Seminar of NRCS; the perfect meeting for youth and junior opinions to be heard.

The National Junior/Youth Seminar

Junior and Youth representative from around 50 districts of Nepal met at the National Junior/Youth Seminar together with NRCS’s president and Secretary General, Teacher Sponsors and other stakeholders. This year Tanahun District was the host district for the annual National Junior/Youth Seminar, held at Satyawati School in Damauli 25th-26th February 2017. The Seminar lasted for two days. The first day consisted of a rally/parade through Damauli city centre, welcome speeches, introduction, sessions about relevant topics to inspire and a cultural program in the evening for the youth and junior volunteers. The next day it was an earthquake simulation, session about new policy of Nepal J/Y Red Cross, awards and ending speeches. How is, or can, this seminar contribute to empowering youth and enabling them to involve in decision-making processes?

Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously.
— Alfie Kohn

Empower Youth to Increase Youth Participation in Decision-Making Processes

One of YDEP’s goals is to increase the participation of young volunteers in decision-making processes. One example from the National Seminar was that there was two youth volunteers having the role of Masters of Ceremony. They introduced all speeches and led the audience and participants safely through the first day. This was the first National Seminar were youth have been Masters of Ceremony. This is a way of including youth in the seminar. It is a way of enabling youth to involve. It is a step in right direction and a part of youth empowerment. But does the empowerment process stop here? Should we be satisfied?

 

The answer is simply “no”. One way of understanding and explaining empowerment is to give power, to enable and to give authority to someone. It is about acting on your own authority. Robert Adams explain empowerment as: “(…) the capacity of individuals, groups and/or communities to take control of their circumstances, exercise power and achieve their own goals (…)” This mean that the youth need some kind of capacity to act in their own authority. They can not just be told or assigned tasks. A good question you can ask yourself if you are working with youth is: Did the youth take part in the decision-making processes? Because if the youth is not involved in the decisions, if their opinions is not heard, and if they don't have any power or authority; aren't they just a token or a medal you have because it looks nice? If we want to change norms, we have to empower the youth in believing in them self. We have to enable them to participate and give them the right to share their opinions. They have to be seen as equal community members with as much right as adults to take part in decision-making processes.

Rally in Damauli with all participants from the Seminar. Photo: Ola Opdal

Rally in Damauli with all participants from the Seminar. Photo: Ola Opdal

When building a house for a whole family; Everybody who shall live in it should be equal decision-makers

As I said about norms in the beginning of the post: "(...) Some of them might be good, but some of them need to change (...)" Youth have to participate more in decision-making processes. Otherwise, it is as if we are building a house, but we only think about the adults needs. Nothing in house is either for youth or adapted to youth. The youth are there in the building and constructing process and they are actually building the house together with the adults, but their opinions doesn’t matter. Their thought are not listened to. They do not have the authority or power to do anything other the listen to what the seniors says.  Youth and seniors should equally share decisions. Every opinion should be listened to, and together youth and seniors can find the best solution. When all parts have been a part of the decision, it is also easier to accept the outcome and the result because that is what all parts decided on.

 

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Continue following us on Facebook and here on the blog. Stay tuned for next blog post about when we, the Youth Delegates, together with two Youth Volunteers from Tanahun held a session about Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the role of Youth Volunteers for how to meet the SDG in the National Junior/Youth Seminar.