On August 12th, several hundred Haitian young people gathered to celebrate International Youth Day. This day celebrates youth as partners in today’s global society, and promotes the engagement and participation of youth in sustainable development. Youth engagement is at the heart of the strategy of Partners’ Nutrition Security Program (NSP) for the promotion of good nutrition practices for sustainable change. Partners supports the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population by strengthening the capacity of community health workers and traditional birth attendants in nutrition. Partners has also improved coordination with health ministry staff and health institutions in order to achieve better coverage of services such as prevention, screening, referral and managements of cases of malnutrition.
Young people aged 10-19 account for more than 37% of the Haitian population and can play a key role in the promotion and adoption of good nutrition practices. NSP and its local partner organization FOSREF have mobilized young people in fourteen towns in four departments to enhance youths’ nutrition capacity. Because there is great need but also a great desire to learn among young people, NSP facilitates bi-monthly meetings of youth groups to discuss health and nutrition, values, principles, decision making, life skills, civic engagement, and leadership. Acquiring these skills enables youth to gain experience and arms them with the confidence to participate in social change in their communities. These young people are empowered to be leaders among their families, their peers, and in their communities. Currently, 1,875 young girls and boys regularly participate in these groups. Other school-age children and students attend Vendredi Vert (Green Fridays), weekly sessions on environment, sanitation and hygiene.
Young people are also supported by the entire community network set up by NSP. This network consists of Care Groups and other influencing leaders, and regularly engages 20,597 women, 1,278 grandmothers and 1,362 fathers. Community leaders, community-based organizations, participants in the farmer field schools established by another USAID funded-program called AVANSE, and local institutions also come to support youth. As a result, young leaders become aware of their role and prepare to become tomorrow's active citizens, striving to be worthy, accountable, honest, brilliant and committed to ensure the progress of their country, starting in the communities and counties in which they live.
The theme of this year’s International Youth Day was "Youth Civic Engagement" and focused on the value of involving and including youth in contributing to their future. In Haiti, the event’s slogan was "Jèn Yo La" (Youth Engagement) and was promoted by a logo that dynamically represented key skills for young people: leadership, nutrition and participation. Young people were full of energy and promise in the Canaan commune of Croix-des-Bouquets, in Thibeau, the commune of Milot, in Caracol, in Fort-Liberté and in Ouanaminthe. NSP organized six large gatherings where 973 young men and women participated in thematic discussions and presentations related to the potential of youth as partners for social change and opportunities for the local associations and authorities to take appropriate steps to meet the needs of the younger generation. The talks were facilitated by NSP staff, youth leaders and personnel from local health institutions. During time between sessions, young people also showcased their talents and eloquence and expressed their wishes to see more quality education, and improved vocational training and job placement. Participants also received booklets covering topics related to adolescence, health, values, principles, life skills, hygiene, sport, and nutrition.
As part of NSP, young people are connected with Care Groups and meet at least once a month to discuss and seek solutions together to the challenges and barriers to their initiatives and proposals. They want answers to their questions about society and about themselves. They share their experiences and seek further training. Young leaders are getting ready to significantly contribute to changes in health, nutrition, and much more. Young people want every citizen to become aware and know that today's youth are committed to the advancement of their community and the progress of their country.