“We asked young people what they wanted, we took their opinion into consideration, we listened to them. That’s youth participation, right?”
Youth participation is more than just young people having their say, giving their opinions while others listen and then go do it for them. Youth participation is about young people actively having a real say and influence over decisions, it’s about young people working in partnership with adults and having an equal say in all aspects of the decision making process.
Youth participation is a key part of the continued success of Foróige. Recently I attended a meeting where young people, volunteers and staff from Foróige clubs, projects and services across the country and spent some time discussing whether Foróige should support lowering the voting age in Ireland to 16. The younger members had surveyed over 200 young people on the issue and this formed the basis of the debate. Over a couple of hours both sides of the argument were presented, discussed and debated among all members of the committee. There were disagreements, agreements but throughout the discussion I was struck by the thought “This is it, this is what youth participation is all about.” Young people and adults coming together, both having their say, coming to a conclusion and then working together on whatever is the outcome.
Foróige aims to empower young people to participate in and influence the direction of their own lives and that of their community. By doing this young people gain the skills such as self-confidence, self-reliance, resilience and a greater capacity to take charge of their own lives and are linked into their community. When I ask young people what they have gained from actively participating in and influencing decisions they tell me “I felt I was really heard.” “It made us bond more as a group.” “I really enjoyed giving my opinion and working with the leaders to get something done.”
Each day I aim to ensure there are supports in place such as training and resources within Foróige to ensure young people are actively influencing decisions and the direction of Foróige by voicing their opinions, attitudes, perspectives and values. Foróige is wholly committed to ensuring young people are at the heart of everything we do and we will continue to ensure young people are actively being heard both within Foróige and beyond.
-Sarah Haslam, Youth Participation Officer