Philippines Toolkit: Youth Engagement
Meaningful Youth Engagement
In today’s context, adolescence is considered to begin with puberty and end with transitions into marriage, parenthood, employment, financial independence or some combination thereof. Commonly, adolescents are defined as young people age 10-19, and youth are age 15-24. In the Philippines, the term “adolescence” is usually used interchangeably with the word “youth” which is referred to as “kabataan” in general, so an inclusive definition of adolescents and youth covers young people age 10-24 (DOH 2012).
Meaningful youth engagement empowers young people to take an active role in decision-making affecting their lives. In the Philippines, youth participation is recognized by the government in the National Commission of Youth and the Philippines Youth Development Plan (PYDP) 2017-2022.
There are different levels of meaningful youth engagement in programs, policies and organizations. TCI aims for a youth-adult partnership in which youth and adults are equally involved and share power in the design, implementation and monitoring of AYSRH interventions.
What are the benefits of meaningfully engaging young people?
Engaging young people…
- Improves programs. Young people are experts on their own needs and lives. Meaningful engagement of adolescents and youth can increase program reach and effectiveness for increased contraceptive uptake and better results.
- Leads to healthier, more just and egalitarian communities. Engaging youth can contribute to improvements in health policies and services, and in turn improved health and broader societal outcomes, for adolescents now, in their future lives and for future generations.
- Strengthens the capacities of youth. Meaningful youth engagement empowers young people with enhanced skills, knowledge, self-esteem, connectedness, belonging and a sense of value and purpose. The Philippines today has the largest generation of young people in its history. 30 million young people age 10-24 account for 28% of the Philippines population (UNFPA). This represents an important opportunity to strengthen the capacities of youth to become the next generation of leaders.
- Can reduce bias and build positive perceptions of young people among adults.
- Is their right. Adolescents and youth have the right to actively and meaningfully participate in all matters that affect their lives.
How to implement
Step 1: Mapping of community-based and/or youth-led/serving organizations
Identify community-based and youth-led/serving organizations working with and for adolescents and youth health and development. These existing organizations can be tapped as partners in developing, implementing, and monitoring interventions for adolescents and youth.
TCI’s net-mapping exercise can be instrumental in identifying youth organizations, networks and youth social media influencers.
Step 2: Identify and select youth influencers
Send out a call for applications through existing community-based and youth-led/serving organizations, and social media for youth to apply to become youth influencers.
All interested adolescents and youth should be qualified to apply as youth influencers regardless of their educational status, social orientation and gender identity, religion, ethnicity, social class and economic status, political inclination and conviction, relationship status, disability, medical history and other status. The application process must include submission of an expression of interest in any form (i.e essay or letter, video, song, poem, poster, etc) acknowledging that adolescents and youth have different ways and platforms to express themselves.
|Example from Nigeria: Life Planning for Adolescents and Youth (LPAY) Ambassador|
The application to become a LPAY ambassadors in Nigeria requires the applicant to write two short essays, provide a recommendation letter (this can be from a trusted adult or peer) and resume. The selection criteria applied to the applications include the following:
Youth ambassador candidates must:
Consider adapting the below selection criteria based on the priorities of the local government unit (LGU). For some LGUs, you may find that rates of teenage pregnancy are higher among one sub-population of youth than another. As a result, you may want to prioritize that criteria in the selection propose in order to empower youth ambassadors that speak to that audience and can serve as a positive role model.
Step 3: Develop an action plan to engage youth
Choose from a variety of different activities to engage youth according to the adolescent and sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) needs of youth in your community, which should be prioritized by data during program design. It is important to involve youth influencers in both the planning and implementation of these youth engagement activities, as young people will have important insight into how best to engage their peers.
Youth engagement activities may include:
- Training and mentoring youth to serve as social mobilizers, dispelling myths and misperceptions among their peers about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) topics and referring them to contraceptive and health services.
- AYSRH promotion and messaging targeting youth, such as radio talk shows and social media campaigns, coordinated with or by youth influencers. Adapt talking points, such as those developed for LPAY ambassadors in Nigeria.
- Health promotion activities targeting youth such as youth dialogue days, SRH sessions and intergenerational dialogues can be successful when youth influencers help coordinate the activities and mobilize their peers to participate.
- Engage youth influencers as advisors to health care providers. Involve youth in whole site orientation and skilled provider and on-the-job trainings to bring the youth perspective to provided health services. This may result in adapting service delivery interventions to accommodate adolescent and youth schedules, keeping in mind school hours.
- Digital youth engagement including smart phone apps, text and voice message campaigns, websites, groups on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp allow you to meet youth where they are. The World Health Organization offers a framework to plan, develop and implement youth-centered digital health interventions with and for young people. Two easy ways to use this approach include:
- Ask a youth influencer who is also a nursing student to create a Facebook page associated with an adolescent and youth-friendly health facility at the barangay level to promote accurate SRH information to youth and serve as a type of helpline for referring youth to services.
- Through the net-mapping exercise with youth, identify young people who are social media influencers and train them as youth influencers to use their social media platforms and post and blog on AYSRH and FP information and messaging using the media advocacy manual.
- Embed youth influencers in governance and community meetings at the LGU and barangay levels to represent the interests of youth and influence practice and policy. Youth representation should be a part of the TCI Program Implementation Team (PIT) and serve as a liaison with the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), the Youth Council, and the local TWG on AFHS.
- Youth influencers assist in providing SRH services inside and outside health facilities, such as counseling through peer education.
For meaningful youth engagement to effectively influence AYSRH outcomes, several of these complementary activities should be coordinated and implemented together.
Step 4: Orient youth influencers and provide continuous coaching
Through an initial orientation:
- Equip youth influencers with knowledge on sexual and reproductive health, applicable laws and how youth can access health services to enable youth influencers to educate their peers and dispel myths. You may also plan to train youth influencers to provide referrals to health facilities to their peers and other community members. This may include linking youth influencers with older barangay health workers and population volunteers as mentors.
- Train youth influencers in leadership and advocacy skills, strengthening their capacity to advocate to barangay and LGU leadership for AYSRH programming and funding, facilitate health talks and promote AYSRH through promotion campaigns.
- Share and orient youth influencers on how to refer and track referrals from the community to the health facility for AYSRH services.
- Introduce the youth influencers toTCI University so that they can increase their knowledge about family planning and AYSRH and earn certificates for their increased knowledge about the proven interventions.
- Provide opportunities for youth influencers to ask questions and get feedback.
Knowledge, skills, and capacities can be reinforced through continuous coaching and mentoring of youth influencers. This can occur one-on-one or in groups, in-person or virtually via Facebook Messenger and phone calls.
Given how tech savvy young people are, TCI has found it helpful to establish to establish a Youth Influencers Facebook Group, which allows TCI and the PIT to remain in constant contact with the youth influencers and fosters peer-to-peer exchange as well. The WhatsApp group offers regularly scheduled virtual coaching sessions and announces AYSRH events as well as leadership and grant opportunities for youth.
|Nigerian Example of Using WhatsApp to Build the Capacity of LPAY Ambassadors|
|Through the WhatsApp platform, family planning experts and even fellow youth ambassadors mentor each other and equip them with skills and resources to lead healthy reproductive lives as well as to grow and thrive in their careers. Topics covered during the weekly hour-long virtual learning sessions have included: Family Planning Methods, Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Leadership, SMART Advocacy, Media Advocacy, Public Speaking, Components of an Effective Meeting, Financial Planning, Public Budgets and Processes, Art of Storytelling, Reflective Writing and Social Media, to name a few. Presenters prepare no more than 10 slides and submit their presentations at least two days before their session. Session facilitator/presenter uploads each slide as presenters record their voice notes explaining the content of the slide. Each presentation lasts for one hour: 30-minutes for presentation and 30-minutes for Q&A.|
Step 5: Implement youth engagement interventions
Implement the action plan, together with youth influencers.
Maximize working with existing organizations with experience working with adolescents and youth and government structures mandated to plan, implement, and monitor AYSRH programs in implementing youth engagement interventions.
Step 6: Monitor and evaluate
This can include monitoring tools filled out and submitted by youth influencers, as well as periodic consultation with youth influencers and other youth participants to hear how activities are going, what the youth like and what they wish was done differently, what needs are and are not being met by the programming, etc.
Step 7: Repeat (continuous turnover)
As youth age out, build in a mechanism for youth influencers to graduate out of their role and transition to other available opportunities within the program or their communities. Have a plan to recruit new youth influencers. Clarify in the terms of reference the length of time youth influencers are expected to serve. Ideally, the time period should be at least one or more years, especially if they are serving in the governance and leadership structures of the program, such as the PIT.
Indicators for success
- Number of youth influencers trained, disaggregated by sex and other indicators of interest (e.g. married/not married, in school, out of school, etc.)
- Proportion of cities/barangays with youth representatives in their governance/management bodies
- Documented achievements of youth influencers
- Number of AYSRH activities facilitated by youth influencers
- Number of adolescents and youth reached, referred, and % referral completion
- Number of youth influencers serving on local boards/committees/councils/groups
- Number of government and community meetings/bodies with youth influencers in attendance
- Documented institutionalization of youth participation in governance meetings or bodies
- Number of community-level decision makers sensitized on AYSRH, disaggregated by sex and type
- Number of health facilities with youth volunteers
- Uptake of contraceptives at health facilities by adolescents and youth, % increase
- % met need for modern contraception among youth ages 10-14, 15-19, 20-24
- Venue for trainings and peer education sessions
- Paper and writing utensils
- Printed handouts
- Transportation reimbursement (if applicable/available, consider your audience)
What is the evidence that engaging youth strengthens AYSRH programming?
- Adolescents are biologically, emotionally, and developmentally primed for engagement beyond their families. To be effective, youth engagement requires training and mentorship, platforms and mechanisms for engagement, sensitization to political and management processes, and resources (both human and financial). Opportunities and limits for youth-led advocacy vary according to context, and are shaped by social, cultural, economic, and political forces (Patton, G. et al., 2016).
- Peers have increasing influence over adolescents and youth. According to the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality study in the Philippines, 38% of youth age 15-24 reported they will likely consult friends if they have any questions about sex. In another question, 60% said if given a choice they would like to learn about sex and reproduction from friends of the same sex, an even more popular response than learning from medical professionals (43%).
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Youth Engagement Approaches
- Ensure that adolescents and youth are actively engaged in the planning, preparation, implementation and monitoring of interventions.
- Ensure that all interventions are implemented with the best interest of the adolescents and youth, and it follows the child protection guidelines and policies.
- Identify youth influencers from the community, not just those who are already participating in the youth councils.
- Involve adolescents and young people at every stage of planning and implementing programs to engage youth. They will have the best ideas about how best to engage young people, so solicit and implement feedback from youth.
- When possible, integrate youth influencers into existing structures (e.g. youth clubs, governance bodies) rather than creating new standalone groups, to accelerate results and ensure sustainability.
- Ask youth influencer to use their own social media channels to promote AYSRH messages and services. They are often content creators in their own right, so simply support what they are already doing by encouraging them and sharing evidence-based messages and data.
- Link youth influencers to various local youth-led organizations working on empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and youth, and to the local youth council in their community.
- Avoid situations where youth participants feel like tokens, as this will discourage their participation. Invite youth to plan activities, make decisions and have influence as much as possible.
- Young first-time mothers face a lot of challenges with their new parenting responsibilities. Learn from them as where they get their SRH information and how they might best get involved. Social media platforms, such as Facebook Groups, might serve as nice support groups for them and reach them with critical SRH information to avoid closely spaced, repeat pregnancies.
- A common challenge to meaningful youth engagement is continuous turnover as trained youth influencers age out of the program. Anticipate and plan for this, clearly defining the length of the term youth influencers are expected to serve and outlining a plan to train new classes of youth influencers on a regular basis.