RET’s Youth Empowerment Model
The project in brief
Turkey - Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, and Mardin (GSM) Provinces.
2016 - Ongoing
RET Youth Centres in Turkey offered young people a safe-friendly environment and activities that fostered resilience and youth empowerment.
RET’s 2016-19 comprehensive programme in Turkey aimed to address the needs of the most vulnerable Syrian and Turkish children and youth through appropriate education and protection services and interventions. RET’s programme was designed to improve the life prospects and increase the resilience of refugee and host community children, adolescents and youth in Turkey, affected by the Syrian crisis, by offering safe-friendly environments and activities that would foster youth empowerment.
Elements that facilitated the implementation of the project include:
- A very good relationship with the local, provincial and national Turkish authorities, materialised in more than 52 MoU signed to reinforce mutual collaboration and support at various levels.
- A very good understanding of local socio-cultural dynamics so as to provide services and promote activities relevant to each concerned target group. 100% of RET staff is Turkish or Syrian.
- Adaptation of the programme activities to the availability of adolescents and youth (working regularly during weekends and after school/work hours)
- The institutional expertise on adolescents and youth issues gained since RET inception in 2000, which contributed to apply good practices and address challenges in a timely and efficient manner.
Main activities of the Good Practice
RET Centres’s in Turkey comprised of Young Girl Safe Spaces, Language Training Centres, and Children and Youth Centres provided young people safe, appropriate educational environments activities that fostered youth empowerment. RET’s Youth Programme encompasses 4 main set of activities leading to that end:
(1) Recreational and Psycho-social activities;
(2) Life Skills Training;
(3) Social Cohesion & Awareness Raising Activities;
(4) Social Action Projects.
RET’s youth empowerment approach was developed at two levels, and through a cascade process: (1) Selecting and training youth facilitators or youth workers; (2) Involving them in a series of youth empowerment activities allowing youth to raise their awareness on social issues, acquire life skills and design, implement and evaluate social action projects in the community.
Key to RET’s approach was in establishing and fostering a welcoming and safe environment. Centres placed great emphasis on welcoming young people into secure environments in order to gain their trust. Recreational and psycho-social activities were instrumental in creating this welcoming and safe environment. Popular with young people as these activities allowed them to escape the stressful situations of life. They created a sense of belonging by fostering positive associations between young people and the Centre. Promoting gender equality was also important to creating a safe environment. Staff members, both men and women, acted together and all youth, both boys and girls, participated in the same activities.
RET’s approach focused on establishing meaningful youth participation and engagement. RET believes meaningful participation goes beyond simply having youth follow centre activities. Meaningful participation contributes to sustained and prolonged engagement, necessary for skill development and mastery and positive youth identity development. Centres made every effort to involve young people when planning activates, actively discussing their wishes and interests. Youth also participated in implementing activities, allowing everyone an opportunity to play positive role and take a visible place in the group.
RET’s approach promoted equitable power sharing between youth and adults by providing leadership opportunities. RET believes a key element to empowerment is providing youth opportunities to develop important leadership and decision-making skills. In RET’s social action projects, young people occupied leadership positions and played active roles in both preparation and implementation. For example, in one Centre, young people wanted to carry out a project on waste recycling. Staff provided guidance and advice but decisions on how to carry out the project from planning to implementation fell to the youth.
RET’s approach promoted social cohesion by encouraging engagement in critical reflection on interpersonal and social processes. Youth empowerment requires critical reflection. RET believes empowerment involves increasing youths’ understanding of community problems/challenges; participation in assessment of community resources; and reflecting on challenging events in order to define, design, and propose subsequent corrective actions. RET’s Centres offered a series of activities and training modules focused on the issue of social cohesion to discover problems/challenges faced by both Turkish and Syrian communities in the context of the refugee crisis. Social cohesion modules enabled youth to critically reflect these social problems and prejudices between different groups.
RET’s approach enabled youth participation in social processes in order to effect change, integrating individual and community level empowerment. Essential to youth empowerment is youth participation within the community, including engagement in social processes and social change. RET believes youth are truly empowered when they have the capacity to address the structures, processes, social values, and practices of the issues at hand. Thus, Centres helped young people develop and implement social action projects addressing the identified challenges and needs faced by both Turkish and Syrian communities.
- Turkish Authorities at local, provincial and national levels
- Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services
- Ministry of Youth and Sport
- Presidential Office
Challenges and how they were overcome
In June 2017, only 480,000 of 1,581,720 Syrian children (under 18) were enrolled in formal education. Young refugees wanted to continue their education but barred mainly due to language and the necessity to work.
The dearth educational opportunities, employment prospects, and the mutual fear amongst youth from refugee and host communities led to a situation of hostility and deprivation.
Syrian adolescents were particularly vulnerable, susceptible to early marriage, labour exploitation, radicalisation, recruitment into armed/military groups, etc. While youth were willing to play an active, positive role in their community, they needed the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to fulfil a such civic role.
The hard process of war, immigration, and establishing a new life caused a sense of despair and doubt for the future among adolescents and youth. Young refugees/displaced’ s needed targeted and appropriate social support.
How they were overcome
RET Programme was designed to address the above-mentioned challenges through four main approaches. The “Good Practice” focuses on “Component 1: Youth Empowerment & Social Cohesion”
Component 1: Youth empowerment & social cohesion through the provision of safe-friendly environments where they meet, spend time together, learn to live together (Syrian and Turkish adolescents and youth), participate to recreational and cultural activities, form groups to create & implement community projects led by themselves, and engage in meaningful activities to contribute to change issues affecting them and their communities
Component 2: Information and Awareness-Raising sessions, Outreach, and referral. The purpose to access vulnerable children/youth aged between 5-25 years and caregivers to provide information on how to meet their needs.
Component 3: Education, the purpose to enhance access and facilitate the retention of Syrian children and youth to informal educational opportunities.
Component 4: Child/Youth Protection, the purpose to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the risks and other harmful practices for vulnerable Syrian and Turkish children and youth.
Results of the Good Practice
- Violence and bulling between children & adolescents, once widespread, diminished.
- Girls not allowed to go out unaccompanied were given permission by parents to attend the centres accessing important education (including Turkish language courses) and protection services.
- Increased social cohesion as behaviours and relationships became more friendly & respectful and prejudices between Turkish and Syrian youth ceased.
- Evaluation of RETs projects showed how youth engagement in community action projects benefited the youth and the community at large, leading to increased resources and opportunities, and generated a community more responsive to the needs of a diverse public.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Youth Empowerment is important because on the one hand it an effective strategy for protecting young people living in crisis affected contexts, as it contributes to strengthening their resilience and, on the other hand, because it positively contributes to developing self-reliance.
The programme will be completed by the end of 2019. RET is defining whether it can be replicated in other regions of Turkey based on availability of funding opportunities to materialise it.
Lauren Burns, Knowledge Management Manager, RET