The year 2022 starts off on an exciting note for MIET AFRICA. A regional research study on youth agency is being conducted across five countries in Southern Africa, including Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The FutureLife-Now! programme recognizes that a key reason for the lack of progress towards achieving the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is that youth lack the agency required to engage in responsible behaviours. The “Youth Agency Research Study” is part of a FutureLife-Now! activity that seeks to establish evidence on how to better support young people to exercise their rights and their responsibilities.
The study aims to analyse barriers that prevent youth from exercising agency at the personal, household, community, national and regional levels. The findings of the study will be published in a report, and a video will highlight implications for the implementation of the SADC Child and Youth Agency Framework, youth programming and recommend ways of accelerating youth agency in education ecosystems and broader governance processes in the SADC region.
The research process, which commenced in November 2021, is youth-led and aims to establish an understanding of youth agency amongst youth, duty bearers and other stakeholders. The findings of the research will be published in April 2022. Given that the focus of the research is on the agency of young people, the research design focuses primarily on active engagement of youth from research design to data collection, from analysis, write up and dissemination to evidenced-based advocacy processes. Some of the young researchers from the five target countries are members of national youth leadership councils, while others are youth facilitators or peer educators from FutureLife-Now! schools.
This evidence-building study strives to put youth agency into action through a partnership model with the young researchers who receive ongoing mentoring and research training from MIET AFRICA and study partner, Reygan Consult. The two organizations hold bi-weekly feedback sessions with the youth researchers to support them in meeting the various research milestones. This research model supports a grounded, more contextualized, evidence base for change, which grows young people’s capacity to use research skills in order to generate evidence that will inform advocacy and policymaking.
African states have promised to prioritize the needs of young people by realizing their right to develop to their full potential. Despite this recognition, while young people overwhelmingly report caring about socially responsible values like living healthy lives, gender equity, human rights, climate change, access to skills and livelihoods and civic transparency, they feel ill-equipped to influence social change through meaningful action.
Across all socio-economic backgrounds, research has shown that young people who become civically engaged experience boosts in both their educational attainment and the income levels they achieve in adulthood. Activities such as volunteering, voting, advocacy and community engagement can be both formative experiences and pathways to future opportunities for youth.
Yvonne Tagwireyi, regional policy and development specialist at MIET AFRICA said that it is not enough to prepare young people to see and interact with the world differently. “We also need to prepare the world to see and interact with young people differently. This research will help unpack how young people can be effectively equipped to act on their values, and to address the systemic and structural barriers that affect them from exercising their agency.”
Tagwireyi added that youth are uniquely positioned to build a more just and inclusive world, and to address 21st century development issues. “When provided with opportunities to lead, young people can come up with innovative approaches to addressing development issues and can drive change,” she said. “When they are informed about their rights, they are better able to make healthier and informed decisions, have an ethic of care for others and can hold leaders and systems accountable.”