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Secretary-General of the Commonwealth speaking with youth leaders

Commonwealth’s ambitions for supporting youth work sector

2 November 2020
A message from Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

Over recent months, we have witnessed a wave of protests online and on the streets. Across the Commonwealth, young people have been pounding the pavements, tweeting and using other platforms to demand social change. 

We, at the Commonwealth Secretariat, have been listening. What we are hearing is that our young people are fearful for their lives and their future.

Many are reluctant to dream because they regard their employment and education prospects as being grim. Some feel they are being discriminated against because of their age, religion and the colour of their skin. They are worried about the uncertainty of a future threatened by both a pandemic and an unfolding environmental disaster.

In Commonwealth Youth Work Week each year we acknowledge and accord due recognition the critical role of youth workers, and re-emphasise collective Commonwealth commitment to working alongside young people through government and other agencies on action to advance youth inclusion and empowerment.

So, this week, we focus on Commonwealth ambition and vision for youth work , and on youth workers as role models and mentors who guide and educate young people, and give them the confidence and resources to pursue their interests and goals for the future.

Youth workers tackle a whole spectrum of issues, motivating young people to channel their youthful energy, emotions and creativity in positive ways through arts and sports, and to harness their idealism and passion to fight for their rights and opportunities.

By mentoring and empowering young people to overcome disadvantage and developmental challenges, especially those who are most vulnerable and disenfranchised, they offer inspiration and practical pathways towards making positive contributions to society.

During this week, we will focus on initiatives such as our training and degree programmes designed to support these unsung heroes who have dedicated their lives to helping young people cope in these tough times.   

So to begin our celebration and reflection we invited youth work leaders to tell is in their own words about the aspirations and ambitions for youth work in the Commonwealth. 

Messages from youth work leaders

Robyn Broadbent, Chair, Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Workers Association (CAYWA), Australia 

“Because it takes a community to nurture young people and youth workers are integral to this contribution. Youth work has an essential role in promoting civil society and ensuring that young people are not just seen in a future context but as an investment in the present.

“Youth workers make a difference in the lives of all young people, but, in particular, some of the most vulnerable youth in the Commonwealth.”

John Tan, Vice-Chairperson, CAYWA, Singapore 

“In Singapore, we are ambitious for youth work to be formally recognised as a profession. We want to see those who choose to invest their lives in helping young people duly affirmed, and supported.

“We are not saying that youth workers should be seeking validation for and through their work. Rather, we want to see an improvement in the resources allocated to them, realising that this will inevitably help our nation's youth.”  

Johnny Calliste, Project Officer for diversion and rehabilitation, Grenada 

“I am ambitious about youth work because it is a rewarding career that allows me to impact thousands of lives. Every young person is unique, with her or his own life experiences, needs and expectations.

“Developing supportive relationships with them opens their eyes to new experiences and opportunities. This provides a sense of pride, accomplishment and the feeling that I am making a difference in my country and by extension, in the world.” 

Kenyan Michael Asudi, Country Coordinator and Secretary of International Affairs at the Organisation of Africa Youth, Kenya

“Africa’s young population has a huge potential which can be unlocked quicker if there is a sustainable investment in young people’s socio-economic empowerment. I am pleased that the Kenya Youth Development Policy has recognised the importance of youth work practice and the need to professionalise it.

“My ambition is to fully implement the youth work pillar of the national policy in Kenya as we mark the 2020 Youth Work Week.”

Adam Muirhead, Institute for Youth Work, England

“This year’s Youth Work Week is giving the Institute for Youth Work an opportunity to focus on what really matters to us: our members. We hope that through our Youth Work Week activities, our membership will grow, giving the institute an even stronger mandate and voice in the national strategic sphere.

“The voice for youth workers must be present in spaces where youth work is being discussed if we are to achieve our mission of access to high quality youth work provision for all young people.” 

Jane Zintl, Arataiohi, New Zealand

“New Zealand is ambitious for youth work because it is the key to seeing young people lead us forward globally, responding to the many challenges we face.” 

Ben Duntoye, Nigerian Youth Workers’ Association, Nigeria

“We are ambitious because youth work provides a new pathway to youth development. It offers a professional and expert approach to addressing the prevailing youth challenges such as youth unemployment, militancy, kidnapping and other related problems.

“Youth work supports a youth-to-youth approach and participation and creates a more empowered generation of young people.”