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Seeing like a young citizen: youth and participatory governance in Africa (PLA 64)

All over the world citizens are starting to demand accountability from those in power. We are seeing exciting experiments in participatory governance. But are they working for young people? What spaces are most promising for the participation of children and young people in governance? Across Africa youth (particularly boys and young men) are seen as a frustrated and excluded ‘lost generation’ who are marginalised from decision-making processes. Contributors to this special issue demonstrate how this is changing. Young people in Africa are challenging the norms and structures that exclude them, engaging with the state and demanding accountability. This article explores how young people are exercising their right to participate and developing the knowledge, skills and confidence to affect to change. It examines some of the methods of communication, appraisal, monitoring and research which are involving these young people in decision-making spaces. It asks how can we re-shape how young people perceive and exercise citizenship? How can we redefine and deepen the interfaces between young citizens and the state? This overview article to PLA 64 demonstrates the persistence, passion and enthusiasm that youth bring to governance processes – and how they are driving change in creative and unexpected ways. It highlights how young Africans are doing this: addressing the documentation gap that surrounds youth and governance in Africa and enabling other participatory practitioners – young and old – to learn from their experiences.

Participatory Learning and Action (PLA, formerly PLA Notes) is the world's leading series on participatory approaches and methods. PLA publishes articles on participation aimed at practitioners, researchers, academics and activists. All articles are peer-reviewed by an international editorial board.

Keywords: Children, youth, young people, child rights, participatory governance.

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