AP Photo/Mark Duncan

Johannesburg - Youth workers say in order for youth-led organisations to succeed they should be genuinely led by young people.

Youngsters, academics and youth workers gathered at the 2nd Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work held in Pretoria on Wednesday, to discuss youth development and empowerment.

Delegates said far too often organisations were created for the youth but they were hardly given a voice to contribute in building them.

Commonwealth professional for youth sport development, Pete Beeley, said barriers included the broad definition of “youth’’, which varied depending on the country.

“In some countries the definition of youth is broad, in some it goes up to 35 years and in others it goes up to 24 years. It becomes challenging because it doesn’t always create an equal dynamic especially when those older-young people expect younger ones to defer to them,” said Beeley.

Tiffany Daniels, a Commonwealth young professional, said the strength of youth development organisations depended on young people creating their own spaces for facilitating action.

“When young people get together people listen. We saw this in Guyana with our organisation the Guyana Youth Council, where we got young people to vote in large numbers in the general elections,” Daniels said.

Another youth-led organisation that was succeeding in empowering young people was the Kenya based youth foundation Mathare, which was entirely youth-led and offered training in arts, sports and photography.

“We train them for four months and then we evaluate their skills. A number of them have been impacted positively by the skills we have given them - and it helps them stay away from crime,’’ said founder Eric Nehemiah.

Nehemiah added that lack of resources often hampered his organisation and many others.

Delegates agreed that youth organisations should allow more young voices to be heard and included in all levels of leadership structures.

“Who is better to lead your organisation than the people who have been through the programmes offered by your organisation. Give them opportunities to grow in responsible positions over time, as this creates trust and willingness for them to be involved in the youth development agenda,” said Beeley.

The conference ends on Thursday.

Labour Bureau