Young people have always been at the very core of A360’s programming. And yet, attempts to meaningfully engage them have sometimes missed the mark.
After all, young people are not a monolith. One young person does not speak for all young people.
To reach adolescents with sexual and reproductive health (SRH) products and services, public experts, both within A360 and beyond, must better understand and be guided by the experiences and desires of diverse young people.
That’s why A360’s youth leaders convened for a closed-door conference to discuss how A360 could more meaningfully engage with young people. The result? The creation of a meaningful adolescent and youth strategic framework – developed by young people.
Below Collins Ongola and Mary Adebisi, two co-creators of A360’s Meaningful Adolescent and Youth Engagement (MAYE) framework, discuss their hopes for strengthening MAYE in all aspects of youth SRH programming like A360– from design through implementation at scale.
Read on to learn more about the development of the framework and explore the strategy in full, here.
1. What inspired you to participate in the creation of a MAYE strategy?
Collins Ongola, County Coordinator and MAYE Focal Person, PS Kenya: I was excited by the opportunity to contribute to the development of A360’s MAYE engagement plan. In many instances, adults pre-determine the way that young people engage before we are even brought into the conversation. To be brought in from the very beginning was an opportunity for me to amplify my voice, and those of my fellow young leaders.
Mary Adebisi, A360 Youth Innovation Officer, SFH Nigeria: I want more young people to play an active part of program design. It is vital that young people have a say in programs and policies that directly affect them and I believe this MAYE strategy will help to open up opportunities for even more young people to be actively engaged in program design and implementation activities.
2. What are you hoping to achieve with the strategy?
Collins: I am hopeful that this strategy can contribute to a system where young people’s voices are heard, respected and valued. A system where young people are active participants, shaping their SRH journeys and filling leadership roles. This strategy serves as an example that I hope can be achieved beyond SRH as it is adopted in other sectors of health and development.
Mary: My hope is that this strategy goes beyond A360, becoming a framework that can guide national and organizational policies. I hope that these policies promote inclusive adult-youth partnership where the ideas and contributions of adolescent and youths are valued and respected in every phase of program design and implementation.
3. What does MAYE mean to you?
Collins: I believe strongly in active and inclusive participation. Therefore, MAYE means providing young people with opportunities for leadership and wholesome participation in decision making, design, development and implementation of youth-focused programming.
Mary: It’s simple—MAYE means young people have a safe platform to actively engage in program design and implementation activities.
4. How can adults best support the integration of MAYE in programming?
Collins: By addressing and investing in overcoming MAYE barriers. This can be done by adjusting policy areas to ensure youth leadership opportunities are not overlooked or addressing traditional cultural norms and practices that favor adult behaviors while limiting youth engagement.
Mary: Adults should maintain flexibility when working with young people, respect their contributions without judgement and build their capacity through mentorship and guidance. By listening to and valuing the contributions of young people, they can better advocate for their implementation.
5. In 10 years, what do you hope is different for adolescents and young people?
Collins: I foresee a future where young people are granted more leadership and participation opportunities. A future where young people are not just recipients of services but are also valued stakeholders. A future where the diversity of young people is respected and accepted.
Mary: In 10 years, I envision a society where young people have the skills to effectively and efficiently participate in program design and implementation. I hope for safe spaces and environments so that when young people raise their voices, they are not only heard but respected and valued too.