Four people are planting trees.

Social development: Taking the initiative for their own future

Enthusiastic young people are bringing lasting changes to their societies. Creative projects are teaching them to seize opportunities.

© Mirena Martinez Tuna
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Taking the initiative and experiencing the strength this brings, whether as head girl or rapper, is changing the way young people see the future. In local projects, young people from Guatemala, Jordan and Lebanon are trying things out. As well as being fun, this is completely transforming their societies.

The global Fridays for Future movement has shown once again what young people can set in motion. They have the motivation and strength to spark both political and social change and are not afraid to use it, making them an important starting point for transforming society. But how can we empower young people in countries where a stable social environment or trust in the political system is not part of everyday life? Two projects implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Guatemala, Jordan and Lebanon are reaching out to young people at school or via music workshops in their free time. The clear goal is always to build self-assured, committed young adults who modernise their society and reinforce cohesion.

One of them is Celia from Guatemala. When she was 16, she did not know any girl who had ever been a class spokesperson, let alone a member of the school council. In Guatemala, GIZ is working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that students like Celia not only receive better schooling but also learn what it means to be a citizen. Training sessions at schools teach students how valuable it is to elect a school council and what impact members can have on society. Nearly 750 students have now attended training sessions and elected their school councils. The elected representatives have launched community projects such as building recyclable waste bins and distributing them throughout the city. Over 7,000 students have been involved in these projects and are benefiting from them.

Next stop: the mayor’s office

The training sessions are encouraging women and young girls to vote and stand for election themselves. And the effort is paying off. Half of the students taking part were girls. ‘I used to think women couldn’t do that sort of thing,’ Celia says of her election. ‘Training showed me how wrong I had been, and I embraced the challenge.’ Originally class spokesperson, Celia, who has now turned 19, achieved a further milestone when she was elected deputy head girl. Since then, she told us, girls have regularly stood for election. What are her plans for the future? ‘I want to be the first woman local mayor.’

Music gives young people a voice

Young people in Lebanon and Jordan have few opportunities to play an active part in society, and those who come from a refugee or IDP background often also face language barriers and have to overcome prejudice. As in Guatemala, a GIZ intervention is reaching out to these young people with hands-on projects that treat them as equals with a similar approach. On behalf of BMZ, for example, music workshops offer young people the chance to analyse their needs and desires by writing their own songs and lyrics, which they then perform in front of an audience. As well as boosting their self-esteem, this also gives the young adults more confidence in their own abilities and encourages them to play an active and positive part in society. More than 1,400 young people and young adults have already taken part in the project activities. A dedicated youth council made up of 20 young people has also come together to support participation processes. The project’s videos and posts are regularly viewed by over 8,000 followers on social media.

At local level, it is a question of creating safe spaces for and with the young people where they can develop freely and which they can shape themselves. Young adults from different backgrounds can gain shared experience in these safe spaces, helping them overcome prejudices and grow closer together. Reem Moufarrej is a member of one of the Lebanese youth councils involved in the project. She maintains, ‘Young people have such great potential. All they need is support, and then they can take active charge of their own future.’ An investment in young people is an investment in the future. Ideally, it will usher in radical social transformation and, above all, bring about a lasting change in attitudes and mindsets. Young people themselves can be the change that they want to see in society.

Last update: August 2022 

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