3.1.2 Support adolescent girls in advocating for themselves

Young people can advocate for themselves and each other. The Youth in Action Project is an undertaking of the European Commission and Plan International, a child rights organization working with communities in many countries to alleviate child poverty so that children can realize their full potential. The Youth in Action Project mobilized both male and female youth around the issue of global youth unemployment. At the 2012 GYEOC, project participants expressed how it felt to make their voices heard. Advocacy and awareness campaigns led by youth allow young people to present their opinions and experiences to policy-makers. Young people expressed the importance of having a “stage” on which to express their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. Their participation should complement other efforts on behalf of youth and AGYW. As one young participant, Kamila Meisingset of Norway noted, “Don’t be afraid to include youth but we are not experts. I am in high school.” Martien Smart echoed that sentiment, encouraging YEO practitioners to allow young people to participate at an age-appropriate level. “Start small,” she recommended, “they won’t change the world in six weeks.” At the same time, experiences traveling, meeting friends, and collaborating with young people from other countries can be life changing.

For more information about the Youth in Action Project, see “Link young people across countries and continents to address issues of global concern for youth.

Noteworthy Results: Guatemalan Girls Advocate for Girl-Friendly Policies at the Municipal Level

In 2009, the Asociación IDEI and AGALI Fellow, Juany Garcia Perez, received AGALI funding to launch a pilot advocacy project in girl-friendly public policy within two Maya Mam indigenous communities in Guatemala’s Western Highlands. IDEI staff built the capacity of the girls to advocate with local government officials. The project’s original goal was to increase each town’s municipal allocation to girl-friendly policies to 0.5 percent of the total yearly municipal budget. 

Groups of adolescent girls were trained and supported in direct outreach and lobbying, social mobilization, and media advocacy. The groups of adolescent girls in both municipalities strategized together to plan general municipal assembly meetings as well as public forums to garner support from stakeholders and the community at large, including that of representatives from the various municipal sub-commissions, town mayors and their staff, and traditional indigenous leaders. The girls organized talks to parents about violence prevention and the legal processes in cases of family violence; provided information about peer counseling and organized youth mural painting projects, and provided bilingual radio programming in Mam and Spanish, as well as talks about sexuality, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and teenage pregnancy, directed at young people and their parents. 

The program improved budgetary allocations in 2009 and 2010 and worked in 2011 to ensure that those gains would not be lost after the 2011 elections. While IDEI had success in one municipality, the neighboring town proved to be an ultra-conservative community less receptive to implementing girl-friendly public policies. While those municipal authorities did not approve increased budgetary allocations, direct advocacy by the adolescent girls led to the mayor signing the public policies developed by IDEI, and assigning personnel to follow up on their implementation. 

For more information, see http://agaliprogram.org/. Also, “Build capacity, develop leaders, and create networks in order to strengthen civil society’s capacity to advocate for and with girls.