Inspiring Youth Leaders with the Power of Change
When provided with appropriate support and opportunities, young people can be among the most powerful messengers and advocates for advancing their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Since its founding in 1991, Summit’s largest investment has been the youth leadership development program GOJoven, which was launched in 2004 and supports the development of young leaders to act as catalysts for improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Quintana Roo, Mexico. GOJoven is implemented by the Public Health Institute and seeks to enable youth to vastly expand adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) choices, services, policies and programs at the community, national, and regional levels. For results of GOJoven’s 2012 External Evaluation, see below.
From 2004-2012, GOJoven’s focus was for PHI to work with local organizations to select youth for three week-long trainings to develop skills and knowledge in personal leadership and development, gender and sexuality, policy advocacy and other areas. GOJoven fellows – 18-to-30-year-olds from targeted regions of each country and from a cross-sector of professions and cultures – joined country cohorts, where they were challenged to develop Leadership Action Plans on ASRH. They then implemented their Leadership Action Plans in their communities using skills and techniques acquired through GOJoven. In 2013 and 2014, GOJoven shifted from PHI as lead implementer to local GOJoven alumni-led leadership. GOJoven alumni from each country have established independent non-profit organizations for four local GOJoven entities to continue their engagement in ASRH projects and activities at the community, departmental, national and regional levels. Leadership development and other activities to improve ASRH are underway in each country.
GOJoven operates in Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Quintana Roo, Mexico. View the map in Spanish and see sortable data on the fellows and their work. Map courtesy of the Public Health Institute and the Youth Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health Program (GOJoven).
Currently in its twelfth year, GOJoven has enabled more than 250 participants thus far to learn by doing, through collaboration with other youth and support from adults and mentors. The vast majority of GOJoven participants report significant gains in knowledge and skills as well as in leadership development. One key lesson has been that youth learn well from other youth. GOJoven has trained about 45% of its alumni through a rigorous Training of Trainers program to reach other young people through GOJoven and other programs and outreach.
Effective training leads to effective community-level impacts. Since 2004, country teams have designed and implemented 45 Leadership Action Plans reaching over 28,000 young people, demonstrating the energy and innovative thinking of GOJoven youth. Recent Leadership action plans have focused on promoting youth human rights and sexual and reproductive health (SRH), expanding access to comprehensive sexuality education, and monitoring the implementation of a ministerial declaration to reduce adolescent pregnancies, among other projects. In Mexico in 2010, for example, GOJoven fellows educated and trained over 1,000 mainly indigenous youth on SRH through the Kanantaba youth space, located in the rural town of Jose Maria Morelos. In 2012, the Guatemala Team broadcasted six SRH-focused radio programs, reaching youth throughout the Sololá Department with information on human rights, national laws concerning SRH, pregnancy prevention, and gender-based violence prevention.
Each GOJoven fellow offers unique strengths and background experiences to his or her country GOJoven. Profiles of the GOJoven fellows can be found on the GOJoven website, which also features news, digital stories, and fact sheets for each country GOJoven. Additional information on the fellows’ projects is shared via the GOJoven Facebook page.
GOJoven Alumni Associations
The new, youth-led GOJoven alumni associations in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Quintana Roo, Mexico are training additional young leaders as the early cohorts age out using the GOJoven model. These local organizations are also harnessing their alumni’s expertise by implementing projects focused on ASRH education, capacity-building, services, and/or advocacy for policy change with the aim of decreasing the adolescent fertility rate, particularly among marginalized girls ages 15-19 in their countries. Below are additional highlights of the alumni associations’ work.
GOBelize’s mission is to contribute to an increase in knowledge of SRH and enhance Belizean youths’ leadership skills and environmental consciousness. In 2014, GOBelize reached 900 out-of-school young people with ASRH training and began a comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) advocacy project, through which they are training youth leaders to engage with public officials on CSE, building a coalition of 15 NGOs to advocate for CSE for young people, and conducting a media campaign targeted at teachers.
GOJoven Guatemala conducts training and political advocacy and produces research and communications to fight for the sexual and reproductive rights of marginalized adolescents and youth in Guatemala. In 2014, GOJoven Guatemala co-organized the First National Youth Conference to address adolescent pregnancy, HIV and sexual violence, and in 2015, it designed and lead an advocacy campaign ahead of the national election to raise awareness about child marriage/early unions. Guatemala’s minimum age of marriage was reformed shortly after the elections.
GOJoven Honduras promotes comprehensive development to improve the quality of life of adolescents and youth through capacity-building, collective advocacy and the guarantee of SRH and rights for all youth in Honduras. In 2014, GOJoven Honduras conducted state and national-level advocacy around the First Lady’s Multisectoral Plan for the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy, and participated in national and international policy coordination efforts such as the National Commission on Human Rights, the Advocacy Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, and the Group of Experts on Cairo +20 and Post-2015.
México y Caribe Jóvenes’ mission is to empower adolescents and young people in Mexico to exercise their human rights, particularly their sexual and reproductive health and rights. In 2015, GOJoven Mexico organized a health fair in Quintana Roo as part of the National Week of Adolescent Health, reaching 500 adolescents with SRH information.
Evaluation of GOJoven
In 2011, Summit commissioned J. Solomon Consulting, LLC, to undertake an external evaluation of GOJoven to: (1) identify GOJoven’s outcomes at multiple levels; (2) identify promising practices for the ASRH and youth leadership fields; and (3) support planning for GOJoven’s next phase.
The evaluation was largely retrospective, focusing on the period 2004 to early 2012. It employed quantitative, qualitative, and participatory methods, including a document review; surveys of GOJoven alumni Fellows and GOJoven-linked organizations; interviews and focus groups with GOJoven in-country staff, alumni, IS Project grant recipients, beneficiaries of Leadership Action Plans, and ASRHR key opinion leaders in the four GOJoven countries; and collection and discussion of “Most Significant Change” stories written by Fellows. Four in-country evaluation consultants, all GOJoven alumni, assisted with the evaluation.
GOJoven has implemented robust program components that have largely reached or exceeded the targeted number of participants. At the individual (Fellow) level, GOJoven has evidenced positive effects on ASRH- and leadership-related knowledge, attitudes, and skills (KAS) and KAS application to Fellows’ personal and professional lives. Most alumni are engaged in and/or looking for paid or volunteer work in ASRH. Fellows have attained increasingly influential ASRH-related leadership roles; many attribute these advances (at least in part) to GOJoven. At the organizational level, GOJoven has evidenced positive effects on organizations’ youth and/or ASRH focus, staff KAS concerning youth and ASRH work, inter-organizational collaboration, and organizational visibility. At the community level, as a result of GOJoven, many new local ASRH-related activities and services have been implemented. However, while there is some systematic evidence of positive short-term changes in beneficiary youths’ KAS, there is little formal or systematic evidence of behavioral and/or associated health status outcomes. At the national and regional (i.e., Mexico/Central America overall) levels, some GOJoven Fellows have been involved in program or policy initiatives through job and project responsibilities, advisory and advocacy groups, and conferences. However, there is little evidence that GOJoven programming has achieved change in ASRH-related policies, services, or health outcomes at these levels.