Aging Up, Not Out!: Youth Transition in the SRHR field



‘Youth’ is more than just a word or a period of development. The nuanced struggles of young individuals, as they navigate between adolescence and adulthood, are often disregarded by the institutions that should support them. It’s puzzling how we easily discuss gender, race, and sexual orientation, but hesitate to address youth involvement sincerely. How can we justify a system where young enthusiasts eager to contribute to Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (AYSRHR) are frequently limited by their age rather than their capabilities? The irony is clear: these ‘young adults’ are considered mature enough to tackle complex subjects like sexual and reproductive health, but their age often prevents them from assuming professional roles.
At the YIELD Hub, we are challenging this paradigm. Instead of allowing youth to ‘age out’ of opportunities, it is time to enable them to ‘age up’ into meaningful work. 

In our fourth Action Learning Cycle on Capacity Development for Youth Transition, we have brought together representatives from nine organisations around the world to address this challenge. The topic of focus for this cycle is based on the YIELD research findings, which highlight the importance of developing young people’s personal, technical, and functional capabilities to help them transition into professional opportunities. Despite their valuable contributions, young individuals often find themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of “youth engagement”. They are asked to share their stories, be the face of campaigns, and represent the “youth voice”, but their involvement often ends there.

Tokenistic youth involvement not only undermines their abilities but also poses a threat to sustainable change. After all, if these young people, who have a unique understanding of AYSRHR issues, are not transitioned into more influential roles, aren’t we risking diluting the effectiveness of our efforts?

“We have amazing young people who have incredible set of skills but we haven’t quite figured out how to link them to different opportunities and how to transition them to other leadership positions, whether it’s with other non-profits or in the government. The best-case scenario is that they’ll get picked up by another non-profit, or they’ll become a government teacher. But worst-case scenario is that they aren’t able to find a job and they have to basically live hand to mouth.”  

[CYCLE 4 member]

How are organisations currently building youth capacity for transition?

Coaching & Training: a number of the organisations currently offer training through skills-building programmes for their youth workers. These include CV writing, project management, business planning, research & evaluation, administration, finance, and other leadership skills.
Capacity Strengthening: a few approach support at the organisational level by strengthening the capacity and governance of youth-led organisations. Some limitations shared include the lack of specific ‘capacity-building guidance or tools’ and using approaches that are not child- or youth-centred.
Opportunities: there is also effort from organisations in the cycle to share new or upcoming opportunities with their young volunteers including internships, vacancies, mentorships, and other relevant content.
Management & Strategy: organisations expressed plans to explore different ways to capacitate youth including developing transition plans, career training, and ensuring youth representation through alliances.
Compensation: lastly, some organisations provide financial rewards and incentives for their youth workers and volunteers. This includes compensating them for skilled work that is usually preserved for consultants, or holding a portion of their salary throughout their contract and paying it out at the end “so they have a lump sum to use for future education, personal business, etc.”

What does the SRHR field need to do and learn around this topic?

The group was challenged to think deeper about the topic at a sectoral scale because development and progress can only occur when an entire community and network of actors can collectively contribute to initiating change. The following results came from the group reflections: 
What the field needs to do…What the field needs to learn…
Establish and promote professional roles, responsibilities, and narratives for youth workers so that they are seen as credible and employable.How to uplift the roles of youth workers by utilising their learnt expertise in the related field.
Invest in comprehensive internship programmes for young people and set up fellowships to allow practical training.A needs assessment to determine what youth really want in order to design specific mentorship to support their career growth.
Create platforms where young people can easily find new and exciting opportunities by linking “supply” and “demand” for talented, dynamic, experienced youth.What are the interventions that can be used to help adolescents know their rights and access them without discrimination?
Capacity-building sessions, youth-led movement building or sessions to learn new skills.What are the creative ways to support youth-led movements and groups. Compliance policies and bureaucracy can get in the way, but are they always needed?
Invest more in soft skills learning for youth. This can be internal or through partnership to help them grow.How to engage adolescents, young men and women in this topic without taboo.

At YIELD Hub, we strongly emphasise the significance of addressing youth transition comprehensively. We firmly believe that this is crucial not just for the overall well-being and empowerment of young people, but also for the long-term success and sustainability of AYSRHR initiatives. In our approach, we go beyond the traditional concept of capacity building, recognising that it requires more than just occasional trainings. We are committed to assisting organisations to create an inclusive and empowering environment where young individuals in the AYSRHR field can not only advocate for their rights, but also actively participate in leadership roles, contribute to policy formulation, and drive tangible and lasting change. By envisioning a comprehensive roadmap that encompasses all these elements through our action learning cycle, we aim to help organisations foster a transformative impact that will shape the future of AYSRHR and create a more equitable and just society for all.