Empowering Youth for a Better Future
Youth Empowerment Themes
Kids and teens with an innate sense of what they can accomplish often need ideas, opportunities and a safe place to test their abilities. A helping hand from a mentor is also a good start.
Development initiator and donors should consciously consider the empowerment approach in their youth-oriented intervention programmes. This will upsurge youth capacity to influence, control and participate in policies that affect them.
1. Empowering Communities
Youth are integral to their local communities and have a unique perspective on their community’s problems. As a result, they often take the lead in activism and other efforts to address these issues. Research has shown that communities are stronger and more resilient when they include youth in their decision-making processes.
Empowerment programs aimed at youth should promote resiliency factors, improve protective factors, and develop fundamental life skills to prevent unhealthy behaviors such as drug use, violence and unintended pregnancy. These programs must be based on national best practices and include tutoring, mentoring, role models and summer programs.
Youth should be empowered to be leaders in their own lives, in their schools and in their communities. They should be given the opportunity to participate in leadership activities such as serving on school climate committees, site councils, parent-student organizations and other leadership groups. This participation can also build their confidence and self-esteem. In addition, it can help them feel connected to their schools and community, which is a strong protective factor against risky behavior.
2. Empowering Individuals
As a result of youth empowerment themes, kids and teens are more aware of the problems that affect their community. They can then take steps to make a difference. They can also learn to better judge situations and decide for themselves what is best for their lives.
Educational activities that cite youth empowerment as their aim include student-centered learning, popular education and service learning. Free schools and youth-led media organizations are other examples of youth empowerment programs.
Programs that empower youth may involve a power sharing adult-youth relationship, an individual and community level orientation, peer collaboration and reflection. This paper analyzes a World Learning youth program, Jovenes en Accion (Youth in Action, or JenA), to understand how these themes are implemented in practice.
3. Empowering Organizations
Youth empowerment programs can help kids and teens build confidence in their own abilities. They learn to make decisions for themselves and know that even if something doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean they have failed. They also develop an understanding of their rights and how to stand up for them.
A youth-led approach to empowerment programs allows young people to create their own projects and activities based on their interests. It also gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility for the program. This allows for a more personalized and relevant approach to promoting and delivering the program.
This resource identifies boosters and barriers to youth participation in democracy, human rights, governance, and peacebuilding programs and shares best practices for addressing them. It includes lessons learned from the UNITAR-led Community of Practice on Youth Engagement in Conflict and Peacebuilding (CPPB) as well as insights from the field. It is part of the YouthPower Learning series of resources on empowering youth as agents of change.
4. Empowering Youth
Community programs that focus on youth empowerment have an incredible impact on the kids they serve. They may advocate for healthy eating and physical activity, lift children out of poverty, support LGBTQ kids or address violence prevention. Each community program has a different approach to speak to the needs of their kids, but all aim to empower young people for a better future.
Programs that focus on youth empowerment can help to build their sense of mattering and agency by fostering positive group dynamics, supportive adult relationships and a safe environment. Our research finds that programs with these features are more likely to increase young people’s self efficacy and sense of agency, particularly in the presence of youth-adult partnerships (YAP). In addition, youth that feel they have a stake in their communities are more likely to be engaged in civic actions, which can help to change negative social stereotypes and legislation limiting their freedom and rights.