Listening to Youth Through 17 Cross-Sectoral Youth Assessments: Implications for Programming and Policy
Keywords:international positive youth development, cross-sectoral youth assessments, youth programming, workforce development, livelihood, education, health, civic engagement, youth participation, peace and security
Between 2015 and 2020, USAID invested in 17 country-focused and regional youth assessments to investigate young people’s priorities and needs. This article analyzes the results of those assessments and their implications for youth programming and policy in low- and middle-income countries. Primary data collection, document review, and secondary data analysis form the basis for the findings presented in the article. Our analysis across all assessments focused on identifying the most marginalized and vulnerable youth within each country of focus and understanding youth’s priorities and the barriers and facilitators for achieving them across the sectors. Securing a decent livelihood was the top priority cited by youth in each of the 17 assessments. The youth saw education as a step towards self-reliance and a better future. Older youth recognized the importance of gaining tangible work-related skills and wanted more opportunities to learn and apply these skills. Health priorities related to mental health, substance abuse prevention, and reproductive health, specifically early pregnancy. Young people expressed frustration that adults and society writ large do not hear their voices and acknowledged limited opportunities to develop leadership roles. Youth in conflict or unstable contexts expressed a strong desire to engage in their society. Common implications focus on sectoral programming, research, and policy using a positive youth development framework, acknowledging the importance of any program to foster cross-sectoral collaboration. Building awareness, improving coordination, and increasing the skills of actors supporting youth development—and ensuring youth are at the center of these efforts—increase the effectiveness and consistency of youth programming and policies as part of the enabling environment.
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