TDN Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellowship

Taking note from the ECOSOC 2015 Youth Forum, the 53rd Session of Commission for Social Development (CSocD53), the 59th session on the Status of Women (CSW59), the Declaration of the Inaugural World Women’s Health and Development Forum held by the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT), and the 48th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD48), Transdiaspora Network (TDN) recognizes and supports that

the respect, protection and enjoyment of the human rights of children, adolescents and youth in all countries, with particular attention to adolescent girls, are essential to sustainable development;

adolescents and youth in all countries are a major resource for development and key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation;

development requires the realization of youth’s health rights, access to quality education, youth-friendly health services, and their full, meaningful and effective participation through youth-led organizations in decision making process in public life at the international, regional, national, and local levels;

the engagement of young people and other key populations, particularly in holding stakeholders to account;

the need to strengthen capacity-building of civil society by engaging young men and women in policy-making and implementation respecting their cultural diversity;

the implementation of health-related initiatives that commemorate and welcome the International Decade For People of African Descent;

the need to foster structural solidarity, social sustainability and development partnerships between governmental organizations, financial agencies, civil society entities and subnational health initiatives to prevent new HIV infections among adolescents and youth regardless of their socioeconomic and racial background;

The following is a proposal of Transdiaspora Network (TDN) for the implementation of TDN Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellowship™ (CYEF) with the support of the UN permanent missions, the private sector, governmental and civil society entities as well as local community initiatives in order to address, from a constructive, culturally-minded and comprehensive approach, the global and multidimensional challenges of sustainable youth engagement and capacity building, health promotion, and global cooperation.

According to USAID, many young people involved in international development programs are extremely passionate about development issues (e.g., health equity, quality education, gender equality, resilient communities), advocacy, and community development. To promise youth a chance to make a change or have a say in decision-making and then not deliver can foment dissolution and erode trust (USAID, 2009). Many young people also participate in these initiatives for personal improvement – just a few from disadvantaged backgrounds (i.e. Afro-descendants, Latino(a)s, indigenous youth). If they are denied opportunities to excel and grow as leaders, there could be long-term negative repercussions for those young people and their families.

Young people are an important stakeholder group for achieving inclusive development. Youth have historically been excluded from policy and program decisions. In fact, while young people represent a large proportion of the population, they are still regularly overlooked in the design, implementation, and monitoring of programs. In order for programs to be relevant, authentic, and responsive to youth needs, young people must be involved in designing, implementing, and evaluating them.

Because young people often have an openness and willingness to take risks, they have great potential to come up with outside the box, innovative ideas. Youth can be visionaries when given the chance – in fact, young people shape programs in response to the needs they experience first-hand and/or see amongst their peers. In addition to organizational and programmatic advantages, governments and other civil society stakeholders often see benefit from engaging youth, such as better understanding the needs of young people and enhancement of adults’ energy and organizational commitment (Innovations Center for Community and Youth Development, 2003).

The TDN Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellowship(CYEF) aim to be more inclusive in our outreach and engage healthy young people in understanding the need to identify risky behaviors, to expand the dialogue youth and official entities, and to increase their level of advocacy and civic engagement among their peers.

This is reaffirmed by our former Youth Advisory Council leaders, Kimberly Huggins who believes:

“Through this fellowship and investment in youth development, our organization and partners can truly make significant strides towards an AIDS-free generation by enabling youth as leaders and active agents of change in their communities.”

Through our evidence-based curriculum and fieldwork experience, TDN has developed culturally oriented health promotion methods grounded in youth capacity building, and takes a unique approach to prevention among youth.

Manipulative advertising and peer pressure often lead adolescents, whose ability to make informed choices is limited, to begin engaging in ‘risky’ behaviors; once addicted, a person’s capacity to choose not to partake ‘risky’ social interactions is further diminished by the physiological, neurological, and psychological nature of addiction.  Recent research showing a higher incidence of ‘risky’ behaviors among low-income groups as well as in disadvantaged youth suggests that socioeconomic factors, such as inadequate income or lack of quality education, influence lifestyle behavior.  Given the powerful influence of such factors on behavior, penalizing individuals who engage in high-risk actions “blames the victims” and ignores the true cause of their behavior.

“Adolescents face difficult and often confusing emotional and social pressures as they grow from children into adults,” says Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO HIV/AIDS Department. “Adolescents need health services and support, tailored to their needs.  They are less likely than adults to be tested for HIV and often need more support than adults to help them maintain care and to stick to treatment.”[1]

TDN is not only acting in the present, but investing in the future of healthy young people . Our approach to the problem has been an effective one due to the feedback that the organization has received from our constituencies and partner organizations. Also, we have witnessed the behavioral and attitude change in the youth that have been enrolled in our programs and how they have been able to handle the stigma and other issues related to HIV more positively.

The primary goal of TDN Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellowship(CYEF) is to share the knowledge and practices of our culture-based health promotion and youth engagement methods in order to train a new generation of youth leaders who can successfully engage their local communities.

TDN intends to collaborate with national governments, the private sector, civil society entities, and local community leaders by developing international capacity building programs that certify youth in TDN practices so that they will be able to ask and solve the following questions that are essential to achieving the 2030 Development Agenda regarding health equity, quality education and gender equality:

  • What is the literal and representational language of health in my cultural community and what taboos exist?
  •  How are health knowledge and practices transmitted locally in my cultural community and who are their transmitters?
  • What have been the barriers or challenges to the success of past international, national, and local health promotion efforts and how can the same goals be obtained through my new cultural competency?

The TDN Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellowship™ (CYEF) aims to pilot a sustainable exchange program between young local leaders in New York City and other cities throughout the world to advance health equity and youth development, with an emphasis on prevention. The initial implementation of this exchange program will enable innovative partnerships to stimulate positive impacts at both the individual and community levels. Since disparities vary with geography and culture, this fellowship will enable young people from disadvantage backgrounds to practice horizontal leadership and advocate for health equity in the places where community members spend time—in their homes, schools, jobs, neighborhoods, and faith-based groups. Moreover, they will be equipped to strengthen community-based health infrastructure and find compelling ways to affect local members in their daily lives.

 

[1] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/hiv-adolescents-20131125/en/

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