Strengthening youth leadership
Being a young activist at an international level can be rewarding and exciting. But many of us have experienced challenges around being meaningfully engaged, being financially supported, and working tirelessly to ensure that what is discussed at the international level leads to change at the local level.
For most of this year, I have been a part of the Youth Advocates and Activists Scoping Project (YAASP). It is a project (formed of a team of independent consultants) which aimed to strengthen youth advocacy and leadership within the global HIV response.
Over the months, youth advocates and activists were engaged throughout the process in several ways, including:
- Half of the YAASP team were under 30
- A survey was written specifically for, and sent to, under 30s involved or interested in global activism
- Interviews took place involving youth-led networks and committees
- A round-table event involved youth regional representatives
- A Twitter Q&A was open to all
- A workshop at AIDS 2018 for under 30s was organised, to feedback on the round-table discussions.
We asked new and experienced youth activists what they found challenging and what is needed for them to engage in the global HIV response.
Challenges facing youth activists included:
- Power dynamics and tokenism
- Lack of financial support
- Lack of connection between local, regional, and global and vice versa.
Enabling factors wanted by youth activists included:
- Young people living with HIV (YPLHIV) in decision-making and influencing positions
- Capacity building opportunities (including training and mentoring)
- Logistical and financial support
- Self-care and ethical engagement.
Among our peers, many of us have spoken these points informally and anecdotally. It helps, however, having the evidence to support these anecdotes. The YAASP report provides that.
The YAASP report
The evidence can support our funding proposals, inform our speeches, help us to reflect how we are working with other young people, and open up new opportunities for new faces.
The feedback has already influenced my work. I am a youth representative on the Organising Committee planning the 2nd HIV Adolescence Workshop and the YAASP findings have helped to champion and secure:
- Free and discounted registration for all under 30 year-olds
- Travel expenses that cover airport transfers (not just airport flights) for the youth volunteers.
I encourage you all to not only read this report but use it to evidence your work; support applications and calls to action; and hold stakeholders to account.
Bakita Kasadha is a member of the Y+ Board.
Photo © Pascal Akahome (YAASP Technical Assistant).