In Dakar, capital of Senegal, around 3 million people live in the suburbs. And, as often in the world, in Senegal the word ‘suburbs’ is associated with poverty, overpopulation, unemployment, violence, sanitation and urban development problems, but also with ‘youth’. Indeed, young people live there in large numbers, and – despite the lack of tailored opportunities for awakening, development, learning or work – they are individually and collectively determined to improve their living conditions. They are also capable of showing resilience in the face of obstacles. These young people often have untapped talents and a willingness to take initiative and serve their communities. But they require guidance, support and assistance with their ambitions and their autonomy. This in turn will allow them to contribute to the development of their communities and the transformation of our society.
The success of the ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ project is due to several factors:
The federation of actors and the capacity building of the project leader
As mentioned earlier, the CJS was born from the desire to federate organisations – associations and start-ups – working for the empowerment of young people for them to be able to collectiveley adress youth priorities and better influence public policies regarding young people and to carry and implement initiatives for the benefit of Senegalese youth.
This union of youth organisations (which increased its membership from nine to 18 between 2020-2021) which – although active in the field for several years – had difficulty in making their voices heard by public decision-makers. Strong support, such as that provided by the EU or UNICEF, has enabled the Consortium, as well as its members, to strengthen their technical and organisational capacities, in order to develop and become players seen as essential voices in the youth sector in Senegal.
The integration of decision makers in the governance of the CJS
In order to strengthen its influence in favour of youth participation, the Senegal Youth Consortium has created a strategic orientation council in its internal governance structure. This council is co-chaired high-level authorities from the public, private and civil sectors and has a mandate for carrying out initiatives in favour of learning, citizen participation and/or the socio-professional integration of young people in Senegal. Its mission is to:
- advise and guide CJS strategies and roadmap
- support the achievement of CJS roadmap technically and financially
- amplify the voice of the CJS with national and international decision-makers.
Through this initiative, the CJS has invited decision makers to the youth table. This promotes the reverse dynamic among leaders, who are privileged to witness the ideas, initiatives and achievements of young people. It also means they can no longer ignore the need to consult young people on the issues that concern them.
When a project target a specific local audience – in this case young people from the suburbs of Guédiawaye – , it is important that the team designing and implementing the actions is familiar with the territory and its population, the associative ecosystem, the public actors and the infrastructures. Thus, both the CJS executive team and the ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ project team have set up their offices within the ‘Yaakaar Centre’ in order to be closer to young people and be part of their daily lives.
The project was implemented with the contribution of a community builder, whose mission from the beginning of the project was to ensure the appropriation of the project by the local populations.
Bottom-up approach and agility in project orientation and implementation
One of the keys to the success of an impact project like ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ is the inclusive and collaborative approach of the team setting up the activities with the young beneficiaries to actively contribute to the project. The CJS define its mission and implementation process taking into consideration the needs, specificiteies and aspirations of its target This co-construction must take place not only upstream, in the design of the project, but also during the deployment of activities.
For this, the project set up an agile team, which analyses and monitors the project in order to ensure that it continues to align as closely as possible with expectations. A team member is specifically in charge of collecting and analysing data from the field as part of the monitoring-evaluation and capitalisation. Such information is essential for a proper understanding of the challenges that may arise and the evolution of the environment.
Youth in leadership and operationalisation of the project
As mentioned previously, the organisations that constitute the CJS are managed by young people. Similarly, the majority of the activities developed and proposed within the framework of the programming of the ‘Yaakaar Centre’ are undertaken by lo cal youth CSOs.
In addition, the ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ project is training hundreds of young volunteers who will be called upon to be CJS ambassadors. Youth inclusion in direct project’s action is an essential success factor, as they take ownership of the project and grasp the challenges themselves.
The ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ project born in 2021 is deeply rooted in that vision. This project aims to inform, engage and prepare 200,000 young people in Dakar suburbs for employment and entrepreneurship by 2023.
The project was initiated by Consortium Jeunesse Senegal (CJS) with the support of the European Union.
CJS is an alliance of youth-led organisations working for youth since 2020. The CJS was born from the belief that it is crucial and necessary to include young people in the orientation, development and implementation of policies and projects that concern them.
‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ was also designed with the aim of influencing public policies and reforms in favour of education, inclusion and empowerment of young people, particularly girls and young women. It is a role that the CJS carries out with determination, in a context where hundreds of associations, movements and youth businesses are also implementing concrete social and economic solutions with considerable impact on the communities they target. Their willingness to play a role in solving our challenges must be grasped, encouraged and supported. After two years of existence, the ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ project has already achieved significant results in that regard.
Creating a place for learning, creativity and influence
In Senegal, there are many spaces dedicated to young people, but most of them currently underused and don’t have the resources for maintenance and management. However, open and adaptable places are necessary to allow young people to get together to exchange, and co-create, along with public or private organisations available to inform, accompany and advise them.
CJS decided to rehabilitate – within the framework of the ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ project – the Departmental Centre for Popular and Sports Education (CDEPS) of Guédiawaye, one of the public spaces dedicated to young people. We were able to renovate the existing building, but also to build new spaces adapted to the users’ needs and management’s practices.
Now known as the ‘Yaakaar Centre’ (‘Yaakaar’ meaning ‘hope’ in Wolof), the spaces is being used regularly thanks to its rich and regular programmes. Programmes, carried out within the ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ project by youth organisations, encouraging the civic engagement of young people and strengthening the capacities of young people and their associations through training and apprenticeship programmes
- Activities offered by local CSOs, who finally have free access to a pleasant and properly equipped place to carry out their work.
- Activities carried out by CJS partners who – thanks to the ‘Yaakaar Centre’ – are managing to reach young people from the suburbs of Dakar.
- In 2022, however, it recorded more than 21,000 visits (You can read more about the main events hosted at the Centre here).
These visits are a regular opportunity for the CJS to advocate for youth and to promote initiatives carried out by the consortium itself or other Senegalese youth CSOs with national and international institutions.
This outreach has made it possible to reach and recruit new key development partners.
Scaling up of ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ for engaging young people in a dynamic of citizen participation
In order to trigger a real dynamic of citizen engagement, the CJS has deployed two civic engagement programmes as part of the ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ project within the ‘Centre’. In addition to learning about active citizenship, young people emerge from these workshops with practical tools to gather their communities around projects and are empowered to become leaders and key transformation actors. Thanks to these two programmes, more than 1,000 young people have improved their civic engagement skills and are engaging in impact projects and took part in more than twenty community service actions. These in turn engaged more than 1,300 participants and raised the awareness of civic engagement among 19,500 people.
The success of ‘Jeunesse-Espoir’ convinced the French Development Agency, to grant CJS an unprecedented funding of €8 million as part of a national project, the ‘Youth and Citizenship’ project. This aims to support the commitment and participation of young people in Senegal and make it possible to rehabilitate and manage four youth centers in other regions of the country from 2023.
The project – which will be implemented for five years from 2023 – has three objectives :
- Strengthening the capacities of youth organisations in structuring, programming, empowerment and advocacy.
- Providing youth organisations with the mean to promote the civic participation and expression of young people, in particular young girls/women, at the local and national level, through territorial dynamics
- Stimulating and supporting civic engagement by young people – particularly young girls – to give them the opportunity to be actors of change.
Moreover, as part of its advocacy for youth, the CJS carries a ‘Label project for the inclusion and systemic promotion of young people’. This offers a framework for youth-friendly standards to help organisations assess their relationships with young people beyond programming or marketing products and services. Youth-friendly is defined as practices or attitudes that value a young person or a group of young people, whether by design or impact. It is aimed at helping organisations translate their engagement with young people into long-term value by providing them with clear, concise, and consistent information to various stakeholders allowing them to connect their organisation’s youth inclusion to their overall strategy, performance, and prospects.
This is term will contribute to empowering young people on an individual and collective level. Impressed by the project, the Mastercard Foundation awarded CJS a grant of €230,000 at the end of 2022 to launch the pilot project.