A Reflection on Youth Participation

Camilo Saldarriaga, Guest Contributor

Today's generation of young people is the largest the world has ever known, and it's important for Latin American and Caribbean youth to have a say in the policies that affect our lives. Although the conversations may at times be tense or challenging, young people's experiences and expertise will enrich the work for sexual and reproductive rights. Ultimately, it will build a more effective and powerful movement.

Governments and civil society groups must stop viewing young people as passive receptors of policies, programs, and initiatives that are intended to meet our needs. Instead, we should be included as key actors in designing and leading these transformative processes. A common obstacle to youth participation resides in the adult-centric dynamics of decision-making. Young people's opinions are sometimes sought, but not always prioritized. Our different ways of viewing the world can enhance the work.

There are groups that have created successful models of including young people in the design, implementation, and evaluation processes of various policies and programs. IPPF/WHR and its Costa Rican Member Association, Asociación Demográfica Costarricense, are two examples of how to move beyond quotas and truly empower youth by giving them the opportunity to be in positions of authority. In these organizations, young people are a part of the leadership team, enriching it with their perspectives and expertise.

As I reflect on the challenges young people face, I also celebrate the ways our demands are being heard and met. I encourage governments and organizations to open up spaces for our authentic and meaningful participation.

Camilo Saldarriaga is a board member of Asociación Demográfica Costarricense.



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