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Exploring expressions and forms of power in youth governance work (PLA 64)

Youth governance work requires engaging with power. In most countries young people occupy positions in social structures maintained by cultural and social norms. This means that their participation in governance processes is subject to constraints. Expressions like ‘they are too young to understand’ reflect commonly held opinions that affect how adults relate to young people. Such attitudes influence young people’s self-confidence and frustrate their ability to participate in decisions affecting their lives. Both authors have been involved in processes that suggest that consciously exploring the nature of power and how it operates can enable young people to overcome such barriers to participation. Here we reflect on Salim’s experience working with youth councils in Kenya, and Cathy’s research with student steering committees (SSCs) in Sierra Leone to propose practical tips towards this aim.

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. See: www.planotes.org

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

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