Defining Female Youth in South Sudan
Source: Pan-African News Wire
Last year I wrote a White Paper on how ‘youth’ are defined by locals and practitioners in South Sudan. The paper explores how organizations include female youth in their programs despite varying definitions and makes recommendations for creating a comprehensive youth policy. After interviewing several youth experts working for NGOs in South Sudan, I’ve provided some of my findings below.
- The term ‘youth’ varies widely within the government and even among tribes. Unofficially the Youth ministry believes that the age range should include people up to age 30.
- In South Sudan, both men and women generally agree that females are not included in the term ‘youth’ since girls are often married young and thereafter viewed as adults.
- Many international organizations in South Sudan define youth as young men and women between the ages of 15-24 or 25. Practitioners acknowledge that though they are confined to this age set, South Sudanese themselves perceive youth as anyone under 30.
- Some, but not all, organizations accommodate female youth who have to balance domestic responsibilities with participation in youth programs. Organizations that don’t make accommodations risk ingraining an attitude that forces female youth to choose between two mutually exclusive options: marriage or economic opportunity.
- Since many organizations focus on youth up to age 25, most are unaware of whether programs exist for married or unmarried female youth from age 26-30. Unmarried female youth are often marginalized even more than their married counterparts and are largely perceived as girls in the community. As a result unmarried female youth are rarely included in youth programs because they are left at home.
- NGO approaches vary largely in how they seek to understand cultural norms, encourage and accommodate female youth, and instill ownership. While many organizations take a top down approach to include female youth, it is not clear that local communities appreciate or understand the distinctions in defining youth.
To read more about the findings and recommendations from this paper, you can find the report here.