The previous year, in 2020, we took the lead in engaging 24 youths who were trained in reviewing policy and in conducting Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with other youths of Bhutan. The 24 youths further went on to launch 4 successful social media advocacy campaigns later that summer, when the pandemic forced the country into a lockdown. YI 2021 build-up on the achievements of the previous year and serves as a precursor to the launch of the revised National Youth Policy that is currently undergoing policy screening tests. The members engaged with key decision-makers and service providers to make services more inclusive, accessible and youth-friendly while also lobbying for sustained participation of youth at all levels on issues that concerned them. The intended objective is to prime the minds of decision-makers so that they become receptive to the revised policy as well as the necessary action steps that need to be implemented for change to be effective and sustainable. In doing so, young people also developed more ownership of their issues and advocated for change with a sense of purpose and agency.
In order to help youths see the connection between last year’s efforts and this year’s objectives, the camp began with a viewing of the National Youth Policy (NYP) review process documentary; that way, this year’s efforts to raise awareness on the issues that were raised last year, as well the issues that they identify on their own further build on the momentum gathered thus far. To solidify this connection, youths who had led the NYP review were also invited for a meet and greet session where the current members could ask pertinent questions to learn more about what has been done and what still needs to be done.
The two days were dedicated to first equipping youths with a basic understanding of Advocacy Campaigning and then leading them through identifying core issues within each of the six thematic areas in respective groups formed based on their interest. The youths were encouraged to first exhaust their collective thoughts and then only refer to the ‘Youth Voices: Youth Matters’ report to supplement what they already had. This was done deliberately to give priority first towards the youths own reflections as well as of those in their groups. Their findings were then presented within the plenary to collect feedback from other peers whilst also building their confidence in public speaking and presenting. Some of the core issues that emerged within the thematic areas are as follows:
Following the core issues identification, the members were then led through thinking about their target audience through stakeholder profile building and subsequently mapping their stakeholders on an influence-interest matrix to prioritize their time and resources for the most impactful advocacy. Based on their core issues and the respective target audience, the members were then led to brainstorm effective strategies and formats for their advocacy. The last days of the camp were spent on creative and fun exercises such as the interactive campaign theme song brainstorming and the silent auction for the best campaign slogan. The slogan that garnered a lot of support was, ‘Future is Now'.