Young People want to be seen as problem solvers at the Concordia Annual Summit

From 21 to 25 September 2020, the World YMCA participated in the Concordia Annual Summit. This event offers a digital platform for world leaders to express and exchange their vision. Elsie A.A.L. Macauley is a Programme Officer of the Gambia YMCA. She is part of the S2C Ambassador Programme in the Africa Alliance of YMCA and a Change Agent. She joined the conference and shares below her experience.

At the 2020 Concordia Summit, the World YMCA co-hosted a roundtable discussion on the topic: ‘Young People as Problem Solvers Not Makers: Youth Leading Global Responses to Covid19 and Beyond’.

With the ever-growing number of young people in the world, it is necessary for such discussions to take place, drawing attention to the voices of youth and their achievements for social change. We have young people serving at the forefront and as leaders bringing solutions to their communities.

The dialogue highlighted global issues that young people continue to face during crisis even now, as the world is going through a global pandemic – Covid19. The leaders on the roundtable shared what  they are doing in their various fields to support young people and to have young people at the table when decisions are made.

The discussion pointed out the importance of empowering young people, investing in them as leaders and most importantly listening to them. It highlighted the need for a safe space, inclusion and diversity.

In this vein, I shared the importance of the YMCA Change Agent Training Programme and its impact, and how it has helped in shaping my capacity as a leader, and developed my area of relevance in youth development and participation, and in building community resilience.

Just like any other country, the youth of Gambia have suffered since the start of Covid-19. Since the pandemic started, there havs been a rise in the number of youth unemployment, in child labour due to lockdown of schools, and an increase in the report cases of Sexual and Gender Base Violence, as victims are at home with their perpetrators.

This and more has led to the huge rise of mental health issues among young people. The lives of young people continue to be at risk but nonetheless, we continue to have young people taking actionable ideas to solve issues in their community through dialogue, advocacy and campaigns.

The news of the first confirmed cases of Covid19 in The Gambia scared many people due to the dense population of Gambia, its borders and its community style of living. This led to a total lockdown declared by the State for the safety of its people.

Even though affected by the lockdown, the Gambia YMCA has since then engaged in Radio Sensitization, poster sensitization and the distribution of sanitary materials to communities.

A group of young volunteers from The Gambia YMCA were also sent to the Paradise Foundation. In partnership with the Ministry of Health they served as extra  helpline operators to the Covid19 national Helpline Operator (1025). The volunteers, of whom I am one, provide information and support to callers. The team is required to maintain records of all calls and provide Covid19 related answers in The Gambia to callers. I was responsible for collecting all records from other operators in my team and logginf themon the database, which was sent for national reporting. For all suspected cases, my team and I are responsible for alerting the Respond Rapid Team (RRT) to aid the caller.

In the debate, I stressed that we can help young people by listening to them and listening attentively, for their concerns are always clear, and so are their solutions.

Therefore, when we closely listen to the campaigning and advocacy  of young people, we will find out that they are in fact clearly articulating what they really want and how they can be helped. Another means by which we can help young people is through partnerships – collaborating with youth organizations who have a lot of young people  under their wings, like the YMCA, and who are familiar with their needs.  Building their own capacity to meet their own needs is a priority.