Our Experience Working with Young People
Our experience: To the large extent TAMASHA’s work has great ties to the community. Our experiences are based on the work that nurtures our relationships and aspirations with people at the grassroots levels. This part explains a bit of our general experiences in work that we have so far been taking part in various communities across Tanzania and Africa. Such countries are Lesotho, Somalia, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
- Selection of young people in projects
There is a difference while working with young people from NGOs/CBOs who have experience in youth work and those who have been randomly selected without following the criteria properly. Those from youth groups represent others and who are selected through procedures properly observed tend to be more committed and responsible.
It is vital that young people attending forums, writing workshops and other programmatic related events and activities, are real representatives of other young people as this encourages accountability and ensures that the information shared in such forums is valid and is disseminated back into the community when these representatives go back to their communities and groups.
While working with young people, selection criteria should ensure that the different vulnerable groups are represented, further to ensure that new information is collected, it is further important that the representatives of the different vulnerable groups are also new rather than having same people all the time always. Because these become official workshop attendees who over time loose touch with the new realities on the ground facing the young people they represent.
- Project ownership
Young people need to be more than beneficiaries. They need to feel the project belongs to them otherwise it is difficult to attain desired objectives and results regardless of how the project is planned.It should be young people to decide on how they want the services to be accessed including who should offer the service and the location for centres.
Ownership is possible when the youth are involved from initial stages of the project. Through consultative meetings the youth discuss about the projects modalities and are given significant roles in supervision, monitoring and evaluation.
Otherwise the project should act as a mentorship programmes that assured them in various aspects as livelihood and learning processes.Lack of motivation and follow up of peer educators may lead to drop out as they do not observe personal benefits to stay in the programme. Motivation is not necessarily monetary incentives but it should be recognition of their work, further opportunities as a career development, learning and so.
Programmers and programmes working for and that are meant for young people should reflect more around volunteering and the work that young people do. Although there are things to consider as, at what point does volunteering become exploitation? Or better still, when do young people stop volunteering and, while volunteering, how do they meet their daily needs; this is because for most of the young people working as peer educators and facilitators, are young people who want change and growth just like you.
This goes back to almost what you have written above, when young people get into programmes and they realize there is nothing new or there is no room for them, in programming, running of projects and key activities and decision, they get bored and leave!!! Otherwise put, young people in many programmes are use to rubber stamp, finish and do the irrelevant things in projects and they get pissed and bored!
When you are organizing a community for practicing tools you have either to ensure that the communities will be available throughout the process for all planned days and maintenance of consistency. The success of a programme is not just the details and content of the programme but also the processes leading up to the achievement of the programme objectives. This therefore means that from pre testing of tools to invitation of participants and other logistics related to the programme needs to be given due attention as it is these small details that build up the totality of programme achievement.
- Community Mobilization
Working with young people in the communities to carry out research requires that the communities are aware and are ready to support the work of young people as this is a positive step towards promoting positive youth image and belief in their abilities.
All groups of community members should be invited during the introductory meeting in the village or a community. Enough time must be given when inviting people including clear information on the purpose of the meeting.
- The process
It is important to have a structured process which is agreed in advanced and strategized on how the structure will operationalize. For example you need to have people from the districts including youth officers from the research districts at least for one day to plan together on what is required to be done by each part. Extension officers are those who have people in the field and knows better of the environment and all logistics.
- Recipients and players
When the all the researchers are from outside community, they can hardly be accepted and supported, and those in that community will not see the value of the research. It is important to have few young people from the research community or even those staying at near village but familiar with their peers and the environment.
This helps a lot in mobilization and acceptance. These young people will be the key informants and will held accountable for research feedback and they can easily challenge their peers to be more open and critical.
- Women in empowerment
A project which intends to build financial capacities of the household attracts more women than men.
Men are reluctantly accepting that they are the part of economic project and social groups with the conception that, small economic projects are for women.
Approaching women through economic activities can also be an entry point to address other social issues although this goes in a snail motion, which means it takes too long to achieve desired goals.
If it is not well planned the main goal of addressing gender issues and HIV and AIDS may be lost on the way. People starts concentrating more in savings and revolving funds than in addressing other social implications.
People feel benefits of working in groups in different ways.
For women it has more meaning on having an opportunity of meeting and discusses their issues than the financial benefits they gain. This means that sometimes internal benefits are much stronger than how they are benefiting financially.
- Social change
It is not an easy task of changing the way people think, especially when they are used to a certain characteristics for a so long. Normally people take time to grasp new challenges and ways of doing things, until they are conversant and/or practiced those new ways.
- Selection of field work location and practice of research tools in the community
Host partners should be responsible to select a community for pretest and practice of research tools. Other communities have been visited so many times that they feel bored receiving researchers who ask them too many questions without feedback or even knowing the purpose of their visits. People are tired to be used as specimen for research or other developmental planning while there is nothing substantial for them at the end of the exercise.
It is important to focus into different communities especially those which are sidelined with the programmes. Otherwise pretest and practical use of tools should be taken as a part of research including analysis, feedback and validation of the findings.
Incase researchers and programmers see the need to practices the use of tools and methods, selection of field practices should consider community benefits during the exercise. People should be introduced the reason why this exercise is carried and to what extent their involvement is needed. This is for the reason of avoiding expectations that cannot be fulfilled.
Avoid using same community repeatedly for field practices as people will tend to give answers that you may need because they will be able to preempt your objectives due to their frequent involvement in such activities.
- Cultural orientation
It is important to orient researchers or trainers especially outsiders with cultural issues and beliefs of the community. These include dressing codes, greetings, and social relationships in the society and even times/hours that are appropriate when seeking community participation. In Somalia a country which is Muslim dominated issues of religion and times for prayers are very sensitive and should be properly observed.
- Addressing difficult issues
According to strong cultural and religious beliefs there have been a lot of denial on things that seems to ashamed the society. The issue is becoming more controversial when intervened by an outsider. Some people are not happy to discuss and reveal issues of sex work or incest rape with someone who is not from that community.
In one incident in Somalia, male participants were forcing the girls not to include on their report findings the issues of rape in families.