Obstacles to youth engagement: How YOAC overcomes them
According to the Freechild Institute Youth Engagement Toolkit, we must always think about the barriers we have experienced when reflecting on youth engagement. We should ask ourselves was there a time when we tried reaching out to different constituencies, was is successful, what challenges we encountered in the recruitment and retention of a group, was there a time when we worked to change a mindset about a situation with the group and so on.
All this had to be considered when preparing the Youth on a Caravan project, which falls under the European Youth Strategy 2019-2027 that encourages young people to develop into active citizens, agents of solidarity and positive change for communities throughout Europe in the prevention of social exclusion of young people, improving the impact of policy decisions affecting young people through dialogue and responding to their needs in all sectors. It covers the three-word strategy which aims to engage, connect and empower young Europeans. It involves public authorities in the European Union, youth workers, organizations with a role in young people’s lives, and the young people themselves. The EU Youth Strategy promotes opportunities for young people to engage with policymakers and gain experience abroad through youth-focused projects, such as exchanges or volunteering. It offers public authorities and organizations the chance to learn from each other, share good practices, and network.
Clearly, there are opportunities and there is still work to be done to engage youth, but this is not always an easy task. Although participation is a fundamental right through which young people are empowered to play a vital role in their own development as well as in that of their communities, helping them to learn vital life-skills, develop knowledge on human rights and citizenship and to promote positive civic action, they are often not given the right tools, like information, education and access to their civil rights, that they need to participate effectively. There are also issues with the budget, given that youth engagement takes more than time and dedication. It takes time, effort, energy, training, and money. Doing it with less can compromise everyone involved. The attitude of stakeholders, decision-makers and organizations towards youth participation can also be a problem, as well as adultism, a term applied to any behavior, action, language, or limitation placed on youth rights limiting or infringing on the respect that they deserve as human beings. It is often predicated on the belief that, because someone is young, they lack intelligence or ability (United Nations – Youth Participation).
All these obstacles can be resolved through the continuation of European investments in projects such as YOAC which enables young people to get involved in subjects that they find important for their lives and their communities. Project also provides a support system for overcoming the misconceptions about youth engagement because of the experts in charge of its implementation who offer their knowledge and tools developed over a number of years in the field of youth work. Their task also consists of encouraging and facilitating discussion, not only with young people, but also with decision-makers and organizations, making it easier for young people to learn freely and intensively through experiential learning.
Project assistant and youth worker Ana Delimar, Udruga Breza