Giving Youth a Voice in Their Future in West Africa and the Sahel
Participants started each day with a team building ritual from one of the represented countries. Some examples include songs, others were handshakes like above.
In most African countries, young people are given little voice in the decision-making process, yet youth are an important part of the social, economic, and political landscape of any nation. When positively engaged, they can transform societies, finding common ground and building bridges between opposing groups.
In May 2012, a four-day regional workshop brought together local youth leaders from West Africa and the Sahel regions to share experiences and best practices for promoting young voices. The workshop promoted collaboration and teamwork and built trust among individuals. Discussion during the workshop covered a wide range of topics important to youth, including gender issues, economic challenges, feelings of isolation and marginalization, and combating violence. Participants identified commonalities in their individual situations and appropriate approaches for effecting change among different audiences. The workshop was funded by USAID PDev II and Search for Common Ground.
Workshop facilitators encouraged participants to take a comprehensive look at the issues and determine specific priorities and initiatives where they could make a difference. In the end, youth leaders were able to return to their communities with at least two actionable ideas.
Mariko Ibrahim, a youth leader and community theatre director from Agadez, Niger, commented that the workshop was constructive and provided a good opportunity to meet fellow youth leaders from other countries and to discuss potential partnerships.
Attendees included youth from Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Burkina-Faso, Chad, and Niger. Youth experts from international organizations in West Africa and the Sahel also participated.
In addition to the many benefits the workshop provided to local youth leaders, the USAID Peace through Development II (PDev II) program was able to collect important lessons learned from local activities, which have been and will continue to be used to inform other USAID PDev II program activities.
USAID PDev II is funded by USAID and implemented by a consortium of international nonprofit organizations, led by International Relief and Development (IRD) in collaboration with the national governments of Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso. In each country, the partners, including IRD, Search for Common Ground, Equal Access International, and the Salam Institute, align their activities with national strategies and priorities. The program is scheduled to run from November 2011 through October 2016.