Youth activism is one of the areas Plan International emphasizes, striving to give young people more opportunities to lead change in their own communities. One way in which Plan International is trying to involve young people in the communities where it works is through the Youth Advisory Councils.
In Paraguay, Youth Advisory Councils its been created to open spaces for the children, adolescents and young people that Plan International Paraguay works with, so that they can advise and support the actions of the organization.
"It is a representative group of young people who are elected democratically and inclusively by their peers, it represents the groups and communities in which they live and is constituted at the level of program units and at the national level," explains Gustavo Torres Grössling, Coordinator of Local Management and Interim Coordinator of the Institutional Strengthening Project of the National System for the Protection and Integral Promotion of Children and Adolescents.
This initiative is giving young people the opportunity to have a real impact in their communities. “Council members advise, evaluate, design, monitor and participate in the entire process of diagnosing, designing, implementing and evaluating Plan International’s programs and projects," says Torres.
The Youth Advisory Councils were created in Paraguay in 2012 and the response was unbelievable, given that the youth showed great enthusiasm. There are now three levels: the District Youth Advisory Councils, which exist in all the districts in which Plan International Paraguay works; the Advisory Boards of the Program Units, elected by the district councillors, and the National Youth Advisory Council, elected by the Program Units.
The Councils normally do not exceed 20 members, and children, adolescents and young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who have leadership skills and are committed to the groups to which they belong and to their communities, can participate. At present, a total of 274 councillors participate, of which 176 are girls, adolescent girls and young women and 98 are boys, adolescent boys and young men.
"Once the council is constituted through democratic elections organized and carried out by the youth themselves, the councillors elect a board of directors constituted by the president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and other positions which the youth themselves consider appropriate," explains the expert.
"The councillors remain in their positions for two years and can be re-elected, and Plan International closely accompanies the board of directors to support announcements, methodology and logistical support to ensure regularity in its operation."
"The implementation of the Youth Advisory Councils has given more energy to the organization," says Torres. The ability for young people to come together has also added more to the communities.
At the regional and global levels, Plan International's ambition to create and implement the Youth Advisory Councils for Plan International offices is motivated primarily by the goal of increasing accountability and taking into account the views of children, adolescents and young people in the development and implementation of Plan International’s projects in their communities.
"What Plan International is doing is carrying forward the Youth Advisory Councils in order to create a space in which young people can develop their full potential, and that is a great investment for the present and the future of young people, and our own organization,” completes Torres.
He concludes: “In Paraguay, we are giving great importance to this space, because we consider the participation of the protagonists of our actions to be fundamental throughout the process.”