By Rudina Vojvoda
NEW YORK, USA, 11 August 2011 – This week marks the end of the International Year of Youth, a year dedicated to celebrating young people’s achievements as well as creating more opportunities for youth to engage fully in the development of their societies. Although people under 24 represent nearly half of the world’s population, in many countries they often lack freedom, equal opportunities and quality education that is their basic right.
To commemorate International Youth Day on 12 August, podcast moderator Amy Costello discusses the importance of youth participation in research: with Valon Kurhasani, Jafar Usmanov and Matthew Emry. The three guests worked together on a UNICEF survey – taking place in Kosovo, Tajikistan, Georgia and Chechnya – that aims to investigate youth perspectives on education quality. During the study, young people participated in every step of the process, from designing questionnaires to performing interviews and analysing data.
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Peer to peer
Mr. Usmanov, who led the research team in Tajikistan, believes that engaging young people as researchers has proven more effective when it comes to assessing youth needs. “We saw that youth were more open and ready to share with their fellow youth than when adults interview them,” he said.
Drawing concrete examples from his experience, Mr. Usmanov explained that young researchers had been particularity successful in southern Tajikistan – a traditional area where girls are often excluded from public discussions.
“But they [girls] were telling their story, their feelings and what they thought about education to other young girls who were researchers,” said Mr. Usmanov.
Discussing the importance of having young people participate directly as researchers, Mr. Emry, who worked closely with the research teams in four countries, said that young people were able to get more direct, honest answers from their peers and in the process gaining valuable experience.
“They themselves were building the skills necessary to be able to do the same kind of work in the future, either as researchers, organizers or do advocacy work,” he said.
Expressing their concerns
As the Executive Director of the Kosovar Youth Council, Mr. Kurhasani is highly involved with the issues faced by the Kosovan youth. When asked about the validity of the data gathered by the young researchers in Kosovo, Mr. Kurhasani said that young people were honest in their responses and they understood correctly the purpose of the research. “Youth generally in Kosovo has many concerns and they didn’t hesitate to express those concerns and needs in different ways,” said Mr. Kurhasani.