Resilient Realities report released

New youth-led study finds young people are filling gaps left by governments in COVID-19 response.

A new youth-led study has found that young people leading civil society organisations around the world are stepping in to help communities cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, filling gaps left by government responses.  

Resilient Realities, led by 12 youth activists in partnership with Restless Development, Recrear and the Development Alternative, takes a closer look at how young people between the age of 18 to 30 are organising and responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and provides five actions that governments and donors can take to support youth action.

Each activists’ research represents one of six geographical regions: Latin America, North America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania, and draw on examples of how young people have taken action to lead the response and recovery in their communities despite the many risks and challenges they face. 

Through peer conversations with fellow youth leaders in their respective regions conducted between April and July, the study focused on young people’s experience during the pandemic and how they were responding.

Daniel Calarco, Brazil, one of the 12 researchers, said:

“Young people have an important role not only by developing actions to mitigate the COVID-19, but also to create a more sustainable future focused on promoting human rights, equality, and economic inclusion. Now it is time to make sure that youth are not stopped, but supported in, leading the change.”

Freya Seath, Restless Development’s Advocacy Manager, said:

“It is clear from this research that governments’ response efforts have fallen short of young people’s expectations. Young people and youth civil society organisations around the world are stepping up to support their communities and to help lead the response and recovery to this devastating pandemic.” 

Key findings:

  1. The COVID-19 crisis put the spotlight on all the inequalities deeply rooted in our societies. Youth civil society organisations are filling the gaps left by “slow or oppressive” government responses during the pandemic.
  1. Youth-led CSOs have been quick to respond in their communities and are building resilience from the ground up, through initiatives that are keeping their communities safe from the pandemic.
  1. COVID-19 has presented youth civil society with an opportunity to advocate for a more inclusive society after identifying serious inequalities that have been exposed by the pandemic.
  1. Youth-led groups, movements and organisations have been forced to look inwards and develop new ways of working to cope with the new normal in the post-pandemic era; for instance remote working through digital technologies to comply with social distancing measures.
  1. The study shows that around the world, youth-led initiatives have done a lot to support community response to COVID-19, helping spread life-saving awareness about the virus, delivering basic needs to vulnerable members of communities and others.

Recommendations for governments and donors:

  1. Investing in and learning from youth civil society can scale up the resilience of communities to crises.
  1. Young people have been at the frontline of the COVID-19 response: it’s time to make room for them at the policy-making table.
  1. Engage with new approaches to leadership, modelled by young people, as a pathway to rebuilding and renewing our societies.
  1. Work with us, young people, to build partnerships across regions, movements and issues.
  2. Ensure that recovery from the pandemic works for all “segments of society”: taking a radical approach to leaving no-one behind.

What young people said:

  • “In this pandemic we have been setting-up reading spots and libraries for families so that young people can be engaged at home,” Kofi Larbi, Ghanaian Project Coordinator at Brekete Reads Foundation, a foundation that promotes reading for children.
  • Isiiko, a youth civil society activist in Uganda says, “I am delivering vital meals to orphans in our communities as they continue to negotiate an incredible lack of options and lack of assistance during the COVID-19 government-imposed lockdown. Quite simply put, – they’re unable to fend for themselves. Our teams in both the city and the village are doing an incredible job to deliver food.”

  • In Zimbabwe, Eric Morgen Moyo one of the  young researchers who developed this report says, misinformation on COVID-19 is high and widespread across Africa: youth civil society has been on the forefront of raising awareness and sensitising grassroots communities on accessing right information and proper channels. “One good example of this has been in a local community in Plumtree, Zimbabwe, where COVID-19 mobile roadshows were conducted at a crowded community gathering to sensitise people about social distancing masks,” he said.

  • In the USA/Canada, Kassandra through The Desta Black Youth Network said, “We started this delivery service because we feel like there is value in being able to offer families food to the safety of their homes. There is a trust that is being built there between various communities that are still marginalized but that don’t identify as Black. That is beautiful to see.”

  • “I’m deriving resilience from online interactions and the effort and care that goes into adapting in-person experiences to online ones can be very powerful  when done well.” Lauryn Mwale, one of the young researchers from this report and an AIESEC member said. “I have attended sessions on employability skills like CV writing, sessions for preparing for case studies and succeeding at an online interview and took part in moments of reflection to touch base with our mental and emotional state, appreciate the historical moment we’re living through and take a much needed pause.”