Two years of GYM: Reflections on youth-led solutions

Date: 15 February 2023

Virtual events explored meaningful engagement of young people and how GYM serves as a model for other organisations

 It was a day to review, reflect and celebrate that we are Unstoppable Together.

In a series of virtual events held on 15 February 2023, the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM) showcased the impact of youth-led solutions that addressed the needs of young people during Covid and in the post-pandemic world. Over the past two years, GYM supplied funding for 630 projects in 120 countries. 

“GYM has provided the youth-led model for leadership, decision-making and localized solutions that will encourage others to invest in the potential of young people everywhere”, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “It’s critical that we listen to and include youth voices in policy and decision-making, that we trust and invest in their potential and help them build strong networks and partnerships”. 

The World YMCA is a proud founding GYM member, alongside the Big 6 youth organisations.  GYM is supported by the WHO and the United Nations Foundation.

The main event included various panel discussions, project highlights and an intergenerational discussion. It was followed by a side event highlighting projects across GYM’s three core pillars – National Projects, Local Solutions and the Accelerator Programme. The Youth Roundtable four days earlier had kicked off the celebration – and events will wrap up on 27 February when GYM releases the final impact report. 

Main Event

The Youth Project Showcase highlighted the work over the past two years. Those projects addressed challenges including:

  • Education disruption and the employability of young people 
  • Mental health struggles of adolescents
  • Menstrual health hygiene

Said Narindra Andriamahefalison of Madagascar about the menstrual hygiene project, “We know what we did was a small change, but big changes start with small changes”. 

Panellists discussed meaningful youth engagement, noting it was not about telling young people what to do. Rather, it’s supporting their existing social activities with resources.

Loris Tarazi of the East Jerusalem YMCA reflected on her time serving on the GYM board. She said she learned that leaders need to be personally involved with people working at the grassroots level and that GYM serves as a great example for other organisations looking to empower young people. “It’s not about just being seen or heard. We want our words to be taken into consideration”. 

The main event also explored intergenerational dialogue. Said Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships, European Commission, “My most important message to young people is this: I hear you. I trust you”. 

Project Showcases

Directly following the main virtual event, four side events showcased youth-led projects. They tackled issues under four thematic areas of focus: Covid-19 Prevention, Vaccines and Combating Misinformation; Mental and Physical Health; Education Disruption and Employability; and Gender Inequality and Combating Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. 

In the Covid-19 Prevention showcase, Pious Mannah of YMCA Sierra Leone (above, left) shared details about the YMCA’s “Mobilizing Young People for Covid-19 Response in Kenema”.  The project was designed specifically in response to the fourth wave of the virus in Kenema. Over 100 young people led the implementation across 3 YMCA branches, reaching about 100 direct beneficiaries. 

In the Mental and Physical Health showcase, project leads from YMCA Mongolia (above, right) presented their “CoCo” (Come back from Covid-19). project. The project, which ran from late 2021 through early 2022, addressed the mental and physical challenges young people faced due to Covid. It supported young people through a Youth Development Centre that provided mental health assistance, physical activities, and the chance to earn income. 

Look for more information to come on these YMCA projects and others.

Youth Roundtable

Held on 11 February 2023, this roundtable discussion with GYM Board representatives and panellists, celebrated projects and reflected on the importance of youth leadership. 

It’s now available on YouTube.