Equitable Youth Engagement and Co-Leadership:
A Guide and Call for Youth Partnership and Investment
Women Deliver partnered with youth advocates to co-create a new approach to working with adolescents and youth in all gender equality advocacy and decision-making spaces.
Why do we need a new approach to youth engagement?
Current approaches to youth engagement within the gender equality advocacy space often stop at youth participation and consultation, yet seldom reach the level of true youth leadership and ownership. This approach not only presents a missed opportunity for stronger gender equality and health outcomes, but also denies young people their right to be in the driver’s seat of their future and the planet. Another shortfall of this approach is that youth are viewed as an undifferentiated and homogenous group, thereby ignoring the unique experiences, vulnerabilities, and needs of distinct groups of young people. In doing so, only the most privileged youth are able to engage in influencing on gender equality and health policy. Yet the world’s most intractable gender equality and health issues often have a direct, consequential, and disproportionate impact on the most marginalized youth, particularly those that have intersectional vulnerabilities and multiple marginalizing identities such as adolescent girls, non-binary people, those with differing abilities and coming from marginalized minority groups.
Women Deliver committed to working with partners in the gender equality and health sectors to create a new approach to youth engagement that centers marginalized youth advocates as designers, experts, and leaders, alongside traditional decision makers and powerholders, in all gender equality and health advocacy spaces, convenings, and formal mechanisms. This new approach to youth engagement is essential to addressing the world’s most pressing issues, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, climate action, and economic justice and rights. Women Deliver takes a rights-based approach grounded in equity and meaningful youth engagement in its advocacy on these three core issue areas.
What is Equitable Youth Engagement and Co-Leadership?
Equitable Youth Engagement and Co-Leadership is a transformative, intentional process in which young people, in all their diversity, are in positions of power and leadership alongside other stakeholders who may be traditional powerholders.
It includes authority to:
- Design and create policies, programs, and initiatives.
- Make decisions and set agendas.
- Hold leaders and decision makers accountable.
Equitable youth engagement and co-leadership is built on three key pillars:
The publication co-authors call on decision makers to:
- Adopt the equitable youth engagement and co-leadership approach and transform ways of working with adolescents and youth.
- Increase funding for youth-focused programming and direct funding to young people and youth-led organizations, especially at the national level.
- Convert inequitable funding practices with youth to trust-based, multi-year, flexible, and unrestricted funding.
- Evaluate and report transparently and clearly on actions taken to co-create, co-design, and co-lead with young people, and continuously reflect on learnings from the co-leadership process.
- Improve the quality and transparency of data on funding to youth.