VIENNA, Austria, April 28, 2022 - Young people who have lived in alternative care are becoming more involved in governance topics at SOS Children’s Villages. Young people presented to the organization’s Management Council earlier this year and today, members of the International Youth Council were present virtually to address the International Senate. Their message: “We want to ensure young people can meaningfully participate in decision-making bodies on all levels.”
SOS Children's Villages President Dereje Wordofa informed the young people that the Senate has agreed to invite young people to join the next Senate meeting in person, and to do it in on a systematic and regular basis—not as a one-time event.
“You have the right to be heard and the Senate has decided to invite you, the young people, to participate where it matters, where it adds values. We need to be systematic and support you, as you requested,” President Wordofa said. “It is a moral responsibility and recognition to your rights to bring your voice in such an important platforms as the International Senate and the Management Council.”
Dana (17) from Romania, Bernard (22) from Kenya and Napoa (23) from Ghana were the International Youth Council (IYC) representatives who participated in the Senate meeting on April 28. The role of the IYC—the highest body in the SOS Children’s Villages federation representing young people—is to speak out on issues affecting young people, as well as to help to ensure there are strong youth development programs on a national and international level.
Dana, Bernard and Napoa made a strong case on the importance and the right of children and young people to be heard. They asked members of the Senate, Management Council and the President to think and share experiences from their childhood when they felt they were not heard, and how that made them feel.
Not only is their right, they argued, but also stated that including young people in discussions and decisions on SOS Children’s Villages programs can make them better and ensure they meet young people’s needs.
“We are asking you to involve us in all decisions affecting us,” Napoa said. “Many of the relevant decisions, for example, on daily life things or future plans, are taken on a family or program level. But some of them, for example around youth policies or safeguarding, are taken in the organization’s decision-making bodies on national or global level. And we would like to be involved.”
Dana, Bernard and Napoa want to seize the opportunity that attending the Senate session offers. “We are very excited about this and would like this to be a continued practice and not a one-time event,” Napoa added. “We want to ensure young people can meaningfully participate in decision-making bodies. So we are making this request at all levels, starting from our local programs and national associations.”
The first steps have already been taken. Young people played an important role at the 2021 General Assembly, the highest governing body of SOS Children’s Villages. At the Management Council (MCO) meeting in March, young people held an orientation session on youth participation and together with Council members reflected on how to make youth participation in governance meaningful.
At the Senate meeting, the young people used this first session to introduce themselves and suggested next steps on how to strengthen their collaboration.
After that, both sides can consider the suggestions. “We will match the interest of young people and global leadership and agree on joint topics,” said Bernard. The topics can be discussed when young people attend the International Senate meeting in November.
Nothing for us without us!
The three young people have clear ideas about what needs to be done to make participation work.
“We commit to work on strengthening participation in leadership decisions on all levels, starting from local and national levels,” said Dana. “At the same time, we ask for the decision-makers’ commitment in ensuring there are resources and people available to support us in this process. Youth participation is an ongoing process that requires support and preparation.”
The three ended their appeal with the slogan from the 2021 General Assembly: “Please do not forget that there is nothing for us without us!”