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What do rural youth want? Giving power to young men and women to drive change in Madagascar

Posted by Anja Soanala Rabezanahary Wednesday, August 31, 2016

« The world counts a billion of young people, making a billion of hopes for a better future, a billion of ideas to change the world. » (un.org)

On 12 August the world celebrated International Youth Day. The UN set a theme: The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production, and IFAD took the opportunity to ask a very fundamental question: ‘What do rural youth want?’

A group of young women and men in Madagascar answered this question as they participated in a change catalyst workshop in Tamatave from 8-13 August. The workshop represented first step in implementing the Gender Action Learning System (GALS), one of the IFAD-promoted household methodologies, for the Vocational Training and Agricultural Productivity Improvement Programme (FORMAPROD). One of the key workshop activities was to enable them to visualize what they want, analyse where they are and plan for a change.

Six days to kick off a life-long journey for change, and it all starts with a vision!

Visioning is the best way to enable youth to see their dreams and imagine a better and bright future. The first GALS tool called Road Vision Journey allowed them to draw their vision and make a yearly plan to achieving it. This tool required two full days and was crucial to start the process for change.
Our vision : Grow our sewing business and export our products 
The young participants were very happy to complete their road vision journeys. One of the young women was sharing her first impression: 
« This tool is an eye opener for us. It helps us to think about our future. » 
« I have attended several trainings and workshops, I took so many notes and it confused me. In this workshop, I only draw and it becomes so easy to understand my vision. »
A group discussion on individual and collective visions
Project staff members were also surprised by the outputs. They realized that anyone, no matter their age, young or old, can dream of a better life. According to many of them, those drawings will ease their work in accompanying the young beneficiaries :
  « With the vision tool, I will be able to better monitor youth as I know where they are heading to. »

Plus, the workshop provided to staff members an opportunity to learn : «I discovered that I can also learn as much as the young beneficiaries.” The methodology is inclusive, accessible to all, even those who are not able to read and write. Anyone, rich or poor, staff member or project beneficiary, adult or child, needs a vision to take charge of his/her life.

Involve all household, group and community members in achieving a vision

Participants then analyzed their activities, paid or unpaid, their incomes, assets and decision-making and all types of expenses within the household. They identified imbalances and changes they are willing to do to create more harmony and balance in order to achieve their vision. Through the Gender Balance Tree, the youth became more aware of how they spent their money and time:

«We spend too much money, on hairdressing, make up, mobile phones and Facebook, games, etc. We spend too much time watching TV, walking around and chatting with friends. That money and that time could be invested in working toward our vision.  »

For staff members, the tool offered an excellent approach to understand gender issues: « The gender balance tree allowed me to understand gender issues without theory. It became accessible and clear through this tool. »
Young women discussing inequalities within their households

The Leadership and Social Empowerment Map is about sharing with others to spread the changes. The principle is that everyone is a leader of change. Once you start to change, you catalyse change around you.  All participants described how they will share the methodology to their family, neighbours, colleagues, group and community members. Following the workshop, participants will be equipped to make changes at individual, household and community levels and plan it with the tool called Multilane Vision Journey.

A well appreciated methodology for staff members of FORMAPROD

As we went through the various tools, staff members understood the value that GALS methodology can add to their mandate.

« GALS offers a way to identify training needs for youth and their parents at the grassroots level, and will encourage them to be responsible of their own development. »
« Facilitation techniques are highly participative, anyone was able to interact and express their ideas. The workshop combined several methods with a lot of practice and enabled a good grasp of the methodology. The facilitation techniques are easily replicable in any rural community. Visual symbols allow a good understanding of an individual’s  own situation as well as of the others. »

Staff members in charge of advisory services to young beneficiaries
Gisele Mukabalisa, one of the GALS facilitators from Rwanda, talked of her satisfaction about the involvement of participants:
«Youth really showed a need for a vision, a dream which give them hope for a better future. When we went to the field after the workshop, we saw that they already shared with all the family and committed for change. Another key challenge will be the inequality of power relations between youth and adult/parents, and conflicts in household which prevent them from developing and gaining access on properties. Consequently, there is a need for tools to help them increase skills in entrepreneurship and access to markets. »

To me, the workshop was very insightful. I learned how gender issues can either disable or enable changes for youth, even at individual level. For instance, there are a lot of gender issues behind a school drop-out such as misunderstanding between child and parents, or just unstable and conflictual family situation.

As FORMAPROD aims to train 100,000 rural youth to modernize the rural economy, let’s wait and see in the near future how the GALS methodology will help to reach that vision.

By Anja Rabezanahary, IFAD, Junior Professional Officer, Gender and social inclusion,