I saw that we were a little bit scared of the young people. Young women today are often very disrespectful if you compare them to how we were raised. We were terrified even of older girls at school! But then we realised over time that this is what we need. We need to give young women the chance to use their confidence and boldness well. To speak up for their rights and to defend those more in need than them. If we are going to change the world for the better we need bold women. It’s not easy. Some of our older volunteers still struggle when girls don’t just obey them, or ask questions. But curiosity and wanting to learn are actually virtues.

Youth Worker, Nigeria

Often we talk about women’s leadership from technical perspectives or we dream. We dream of women in positions of authority, and women’s rights being upheld by our Nigerian police, South African schools and Kenyan courts. We might do courses on citizenship or democracy in Africa, leadership or addressing injustices. But do we model this in our work?

If youth workers show women and girls that we trust them to lead, they will learn that they can lead. It’s so important that we show them that they can speak up and be heard. That their voices matter. It’s so important that we show them how to express themselves constructively and positively. And it’s important to give them responsibility. If you have a new activity, do you ask them for their thoughts on what would make it work best? Do you ask them how it should be publicised or just tell them to put up posters? If we consult with young women, the chances are that we save time in the long run because they will help us to see things from their perspective (the audience we are trying to reach) and they will be more motivated to help. It’s a win-win. And here, they see democracy, citizenship and leadership in practice – not just talking about it, but actually gaining these skills.

Reflection Questions

  1. How do you give young people the chance to lead and be heard in your projects?
  2. Have you tried it and struggled? What happened? How can you overcome these challenges?
  3. How do you think you could increase these opportunities?

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