Life Stage 3: Adolescents and youth 15-24 years old
Our focus on the safe transition from childhood to adulthood
We recognize that adolescents and youth are resourceful and resilient. We also know that the transition to adulthood represents a unique and challenging period for young people. To enable adolescents and youth to become skilled and involved in their families and communities, we must design specialized, age-appropriate interventions that meet their unique needs, including supporting youth-led safe spaces and clubs that provide a protective environment for young people as they grow into adulthood.
Our learning about protecting adolescents and youth
This section explores how we are deepening our organizational knowledge about the factors that perpetuate violence against adolescents and youth, as well as the types of support and services that can protect them. At this stage of life, adolescents and youth are increasingly able to guide us about the research topics that are relevant to their lives and to design their own advocacy strategies.
Our interventions and studies are already giving us a clearer sense of the concerns of adolescents and youth ages 15 to 24 years and the forms of violence and exploitation they face in the countries where we work.
“Violence is a reality for many adolescents and youth, and can jeopardize their education, employment, and life opportunities.”
— Page 55
What is our research telling us?
While the examples in this section provide just a small snapshot of a few selected studies, the findings give us a sense of the protection risks that adolescents and youth ages 15-24 years often face and echo what we see in other communities where we work. These studies tell us that the violence that adolescents and youth experience can negatively impact their physical and emotional health, educational achievement, and well-being, and have life-changing consequences including disability, pregnancy, mental illness, and social ostracism. The information we are collecting is helping us shape our programs and create a baseline from which to measure our progress as we respond to the the protection needs of this age group.
Our work with adolescents and youth is designed to improve their economic, physical and social well-being. Our wide range of programs – whether they relate to sexual and reproductive health, adolescent life skills, education, job readiness and livelihoods, or youth empowerment – all provide opportunities to mitigate the risks of violence that young people face.
For example, through direct action and advocacy we:
Provide adolescents and youth with social and emotional skills that foster healthy and non-violent relationships.
Enable adolescents and youth to find work in safe environments, free from physical danger, sexual harassment, and exploitation.
Provide adolescents and youth access to information about sexual and reproductive health to reduce early pregnancy and prevent the transmission of diseases.
Address harmful traditional practices including early marriage, female genital cutting/mutilation, and gender-based violence.
Ensure that marginalized adolescents and youth (e.g. girls, the disabled, LGBTIQ, and minority groups) participate and benefit equally from ChildFund programming.
Empower adolescents and youth to know their rights and to advocate for themselves and others.
Build greater community and caregiver understanding of the life stage of adolescence, and the unique needs and experience of young people.
We are actively working to combat the different forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence that adolescents and youth experience as they move toward adulthood. We now have more information about the circumstances that push young people into potentially harmful situations, and we strive to equip them with the life skills and opportunities they need to keep themselves safe.
We are starting to see some real progress for adolescents and youth in Life Stage 3:
Through our school clubs and youth forums in Ethiopia, we have successfully raised awareness about gender-based violence and sexual reproductive health among young people.
In India, we have worked to reduce teenage girls’ involvement in marriage by empowering village-level Child Protection Committees and strengthening a community system of protection. A total of 131 potential child marriage cases have been prevented through this system since the start of the UNMUKT project in 2016.
In Uganda, 85% of 166 youth who were provided with vocational training by the Deinstitutionalization of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (DOVCU) project successfully found gainful employment, were able to support siblings with school fees and contributed to basic household costs.
In the following section, we look in more depth at a selection of program case studies that illustrate the work that we are undertaking with adolescents and youth in Life Stage 3.
Creating opportunities for youth as an alternative to exploitative labor in India
In India, ChildFund works with poor rural communities in South Rajasthan to prevent the trafficking and migration of children and youth into exploitative labor in the cotton industry. ChildFund conducted a three-year project, Combatting Child Trafficking Through Sustainable Livelihood Development (Phase II), in 50 villages across Udaipur district to increase awareness of the risks of child labor, and to empower local community and government actors to take coordinated action on child trafficking.
Working with youth to prevent female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C) in Guinea
In Guinea, ChildFund has been working for over 12 years to develop and strengthen community-based systems of child protection in the prefectures of Kindia and Dabola. Using its community approach, ChildFund and partners have mobilized Village Child Protection Committees, youth associations, women’s associations, religious leaders and local authorities to work together to protect girls and young women from from the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).
Using adolescent and youth experiences of violence in Uganda to inform our advocacy efforts
In Uganda, ChildFund has played a lead role in the first National Survey on Violence Against Children (VAC). Conducted in partnership with the Government of Uganda, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other children’s agencies, this large-scale research initiative has shed light on the sexual, physical and emotional violence experienced by Ugandan children and youth across the country.
The power of youth advocacy in the United States and the Philippines
Youth themselves are often the most powerful advocates in the fight against abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence. This case study showcases two examples from ChildFund programs in the United States of America (USA) and the Philippines, where youth have stood up for their rights and advocated for change in public fora.