Strengthening participatory practice with children and young people affected by sexual violence


Key reflections from the Our Voices Partner Meeting

Posted: Tue Dec, 2017

Author: Claire Cody

The meeting was intended to provide a space to share learning between the LEAP project partners and the Our Voices Too partners (who will be adapting aspects of the LEAP project in their own countries next year). This meant discussing how the project worked and the challenges and concerns that emerged surrounding the participation of young people affected by sexual violence in a participatory project.

There were also of course plenty of successes to celebrate. Throughout the event some of the Youth Facilitators who took part in the project shared their experiences with us. They talked about enjoying being part of a team, meeting new people and developing new friendships. They appreciated feeling equal with adults, being listened to and participating fully in the project. The Youth Facilitators from Romania said that they “learnt participation by participating”. They also spoke about overcoming shyness, learning how to lead and speak in public and understanding that their opinion mattered.

We also showed some of the creative and powerful films and products developed by the children and young people involved (see previous blog for links to these). We also heard about the legacy of the project and how young people and partners were planning on continuing aspects of their engagement in this work.

In one of the sessions we explored the idea of developing and supporting an on-going regional network of young people who are active in influencing practice on preventing and responding to sexual violence. This is something that in some way feels like a logical step due to the work that has been achieved and will continue to develop with young people in the region.

We also discussed how we could continue to strengthen knowledge, skills and understanding amongst professionals in the region who are working with young people affected by sexual violence.

Participants at the Partner Meeting

It was interesting that some of the key reflections that emerged from the event were relevant to not only working with young people, but also when working with professionals. These included:

  • The importance of taking the time to create ‘safe spaces’ with both young people and professionals before exploring sensitive or difficult topics
  • When creating groups of young people or communities of practice of professionals, keeping the momentum and interest going over a long period of time is hard. Being flexible, adaptable and supportive and ensuring that members can recognise small successes and see the impact of their engagement is critical.
  • When working on projects together with young people it’s important that they feel ownership of the resources they are developing and feel that they are listened to, heard and on an equal footing with professionals.
  • Youth Facilitators require support and supervision just as professionals do.

This learning has been shared with the partners for Our Voices Too and it became clear that there are some adaptations that need to be made when further developing this work. For example, through the LEAP project, as with many projects, the resources and products were developed near the end of the project which means there is not allocated time or funds to support the promotion or effective dissemination of these products.

In Our Voices Too this is something that we need to consider. Additionally some of the partners struggled to collect quality M&E data and capture all the learning that emerged from the project. It means we need to adapt the tools developed and put in place a better process for capturing the important learning and evidencing the changes that take place due to such work. Watch this space to learn more about the work from Our Voices Too in 2018!