Youth empowerment is a process where children and young people are encouraged to take charge of their lives. They do this by addressing their situation and then take action in order to improve their access to resources and transform their consciousness through their beliefs, values, and attitudes. Youth empowerment aims to improve quality of life. Youth empowerment is achieved through participation in youth empowerment programs. However scholars argue that children’s rights implementation should go beyond learning about formal rights and procedures to give birth to a concrete experience of rights. There are numerous models that youth empowerment programs use that help youth achieve empowerment. A variety of youth empowerment initiatives are underway around the world. These programs can be through non-profit organizations, government organizations, schools or private organizations.
Youth empowerment is different from youth development because development is centered on developing individuals, while empowerment is focused on creating greater community change relies on the development of individual capacity.
Empowerment movements, including youth empowerment, originate, gain momentum, become viable, and become institutionalized.Youth empowerment is often addressed as a gateway to intergenerational equity, civic engagement and democracy building. Activities may focus on youth-led media, youth rights, youth councils, youth activism, youth involvement in community decision-making, and other methods.
Empowerment theory focuses on processes that enable participation; enhance control through shared decision making; and create opportunities to learn, practice, and increase skills. Empowerment theory suggests that engaging youth in pro-social, meaningful, and community-enhancing activities that the youth themselves define and control, helps youth gain vital skills, responsibilities, and confidence necessary to become productive and healthy adults.
Youth empowerment examines six interdependent dimensions: psychological, community, organizational, economic, social and cultural. Psychological empowerment enhances individual’s consciousness, belief in self-efficacy, awareness and knowledge of problems and solutions and of how individuals can address problems that harm their quality of life. This dimension aims to create self-confidence and give youth the skills to acquire knowledge.Community empowerment focuses on enhancing the community through leadership development, improving communication, and creating a network of support to mobilize the community to address concerns. Organizational empowerment aims to create a base of resources for a community, including voluntary organizations, unions and associations that aim to protect, promote and advocate for the powerless. Economic empowerment teaches entrepreneurial skills, how to take ownership of their assets and how to have income security.Social empowerment teaches youth about social inclusion and literacy as well as helping kids find the resources to be proactive in their communities. Cultural empowerment aims to recreate cultural practices and redefine cultural rules and norms for youth.Through these dimensions of empowerment, programs can work on empowering youth in one or more aspects of their lives.
Youth empowerment programs are aimed at creating healthier and higher qualities of life for underprivileged or at-risk youth.The five competencies of a healthy youth are: (1) positive sense of self, (2) self- control, (3) decision-making skills, (4) a moral system of belief, and (5) pro-social connectedness. Developmental interventions and programs have to be anchored on these competencies that define positive outcomes of healthy youth.
Over the last two decades, quality of life (QOL) has emerged as an important unit of measurement to evaluate the success of empowerment programs. It is used as a goal of programs and as well as an indicator of effectiveness. However, there is no standard definition of QOL. A person’s QOL is dependent upon subjective evaluation of the individual aspects of that individual’s life.
Positive development settings
Youth empowerment programs thrive in positive developmental settings. Positive developmental settings promote youth competence, confidence and connections. Two features of the positive developmental youth settings are supportive relationships and support for efficacy and mattering. Supportive relationships are those that are between youth and non-familial adults that foster trust and respect. Support for efficacy and mattering specifically focuses on youth being active, instrumental agents of change in their communities, collective decision-making and adults listen to and respect their voice.
Youth empowerment programs
There are various types of empowerment programs across the globe that empower youth through many different tactics and programs. Programs can operate in a variety of settings. The majority of programs operate in more than one setting, which may be a key factor in their success. The beneficial outcomes to youth empowerment programs are improved social skills, improved behavior, increased academic achievement, increased self-esteem and increased self-efficacy.
There are programs aimed at just empowering women and young girls. Regardless of specific goals or methods, empowering effects include improving women’s wellbeing, self-esteem, and self-efficacy, and enhancing social status by teaching technical and organizational skills.
Other youth empowerment programs are focused on poverty alleviation. Living standards are for those living in poverty are declining causing forms of deprivation as it relates to food, resources and education.Programs aimed at empowering poor youth, work toward livelihood protection or livelihood promotion.
There are also empowerment movements that use the social action model, aiming for disadvantaged people to become empowered, organized, and educated so that they may create change.These programs advocate for constructive confrontations to enhance the social power of people who are considered disadvantaged. Another model is the 5C’s model that focuses on emphasizing competence, confidence, connection, character and caring. A sixth C of contribution to society was later added. This model focuses primarily on engagement as a key marker of positive youth development, emphasizing the need to foster initiative. Youth-adult partnerships are another type of empowerment method used around the world. This method has been defined as a developmental process and a community practice. The partnership involves people of different ages working together on community issues over a period of time. The method emphasizes reciprocity among adults and youth with a focus on shared decision making and reflective learning. The concept of shared control is key for empowering youth.
Youth empowerment has also been used as a framework to prevent and reduce youth violence.Research shows that these youth empowerment programs can improve conflict avoidance and resolution skills, increase group leadership skills, and civic efficacy and improve ethnic identity and reduce racial conflict.
Examples of youth empowerment programs
Around the globe there are various empowerment programs focused on a wide variety of things and this is not a comprehensive list. Unsuccessful youth empowerment programs have not been carefully documented or published in case studies.
In Nigeria, Youth Empowerment Foundation, a not for profit organization is focused at uplifting the underprivileged young generation of the society right from providing them with basic education to create a strong foundation for their careers, to developing personality skills, because the youth is the future of the country.
The United Nations has numerous development programs, one of them being youth empowerment programs. The United Nations provides support to national policy development surrounding empowerment within the five regions. They do this by providing evidence-based policy guidance and programmatic support by promoting the active participation of youth in society. The UNDP promotes inclusive youth participation in effective and democratic governance, economic empowerment of youth, strengthened youth engagement in building resilience in their communities, inclusion of youth in the future development agenda, including through consultations and discussions.The United Nations youth empowerment programs examine all four dimensions of youth empowerment and seeks to improve all of them.
USAID has youth empowerment programs set up around the world that are aimed at civic engagement, access to resources and opportunities for education and employment.