Child and Youth Participation

1. Switzerland | imagine Festival | Terre des Hommes Basel

Crowd of spectators at the main stage of the imagine Festival

The brightly illuminated festival stage and booming music might be the first thing you think of when you hear about the imagine festival but it’s just the beginning. From awareness-raising workshops in schools and youth clubs to thematic events in cafes and cultural gatherings in concert venues, the realm of the imagine festival is both diverse and deeply dedicated. The common thread is the slogan “For diversity. Against discrimination” in all its facets.

“imagine Festival” is the self-organised youth project of Terre des Hommes Schweiz for diversity and against discrimination which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2022.

This pioneering initiative of young people in the Basel region is more than just a festival and has an impact that goes far beyond the stage. When a few committed young people brought the first imagine Festival to life in Basel in 2001, none of them could have dreamed that in just a few years this event would evolve into the largest annual open air festival in north western Switzerland – with up to 30,000 visitors every year.

imagine promotes “learning by doing”. Every year, a project group consisting of up to 50 young people between the ages of 14 and 26 is formed. The project group is led by the imagine project coordination committee, composed of eight young adults between 18 and 26 years of age, who are supported by a project coach from Terre des Hommes Schweiz.

In addition to concrete goals, such as the planning and implementation of the festival and workshops, the young project members are also encouraged to work towards individual learning goals. These range from basic project management skills to building their own advocacy strategies. In the past 20 years through the imagine Festival, Terre des Hommes Schweiz has been able to strengthen the commitment of more than 1,000 young people towards a country that is diverse and provides equal opportunity.

In this way, we are actively contributing to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 specifically, for the promotion of participation and voice, which are the foundations for peaceful, inclusive and just societies. On its 20th birthday, imagine was awarded the “Prix pour l’engagement citoyen” or the “Prize for citizen engagement” by the Swiss Foundation for Democracy.

Check out the dedicated imagine Festival website here.

Watch the celebration video of the 20 year anniversary of the festival here.

2. Africa | She Leads Programme | Terre des Hommes Netherlands

Video statement delivered by Youth Advocate Fancy (from Uganda), supported by the She Leads Programme

“The activism of girls’ and young women focuses on many issues and is a creative way for them to take charge of their own growth in society. However, they continue to be blocked by the perpetuation of negative social norms and the consideration of them as a homogenous group. (…).

Girls’ and young women’s activism is the ‘New Normal’. They are aware of the challenges and opportunities in their environments and are creating positive changes in their communities. Marginalised young women and girls are strikingly creative in creating alternative places of belonging and means through which they can express themselves and they have continued to rise beyond their vulnerabilities.”

The above excerpt is part of the statement delivered by Fancy, a youth advocate from Uganda, during the panel discussion on girls’ and young women’s activism at the 50th Human Rights Council (HRC) at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, in June 2022. Fancy was part of a cohort of advocates that included 14 girls and young women (GYW), coming from 6 countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Jordan, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia) and very diverse backgrounds, representing dozens of other girls. The cohort engaged in several debates, negotiations and panels. They also organised a side-event which was the very first fully girl-led event at the HRC. Fancy and the other 13 GYW were constantly assisted through the She Leads Programme, with capacity building and logistical support.

She Leads is a consortium of Terre des Hommes with Defence for Children (DCI), ECPAT, FEMNET and Plan International. The programme brings together child rights organisations, feminist/women’s rights organisations, and groups led by girls and young women, aiming to increase sustained influence of GYW on decision-making and the transformation of gender norms in formal and informal institutions.
The consortium strategically works on advocacy, across three interrelated domains: the collective action of GYW in a gender-responsive civil society, the acceptance of positive social gender norms and the meaningful participation of GYW in decision-making by political institutions.

Geographically, She Leads focuses on East Africa (Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya), the Sahel (Mali), West Africa (Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia) and the Middle East (Lebanon, Jordan). Additionally, a considerable part of the programming is also done at a regional and global level, targeting institutions and stakeholders especially within Pan-African regional bodies and the UN system.

The programme varies according to the context of each country based on various factors such as the openness of the political system, available civic space, presence of conflicts and instability and the strength of civil society. Under the She Leads Consortium, Terre des Hommes is involved in many activities, providing, for instance, GYW and civil society organisations with technical support on how to engage in the UN space, including human rights mechanisms and procedures as well as flagship events and opportunities where GYW can speak up while strengthening their capacities and skills as youth advocates.

Read Fancy’s complete statement delivered at the UN Human Rights Council here.

Watch this animation video written and created by a group of girls and young women from across the world.