In support of NDI’s commitment to strengthening young people’s impact, influence and leadership, we are highlighting the essential work of our youth-led partners. These leaders are fighting at the forefront for the inclusion of young people in decision-making processes and the elimination of barriers to political participation for young people in all their diversity.
NDI interviewed members of Corporación Jóvenes Maicao (CJM), a youth-led organization in Colombia working to improve social inequality by advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations in Maicao and La Guajira Municipalities.
How would you describe the relationship between the young people you work with and democracy?
CJM: The relationship between the young people who work with Jóvenes Maicao and democracy is centered on citizen participation, active voice, and the promotion of equal rights. Our organization seeks to impact lives and empower young people in a territory with social inequalities. We encourage youth participation in decision-making and creating positive change in their community.
What does youth political participation mean to you and your organization?
CJM: For Corporación Jóvenes Maicao, youth political participation means the active and meaningful engagement of young people in the political and decision-making processes that affect their community, their country, and their future. This participation goes beyond simply voting in elections; it is about being involved in an informed way, expressing opinions, influencing policies, and contributing to the development of solutions to social challenges.
How does your organization encourage or motivate young leaders to participate in civic and political activities?
CJM: At Corporación Jóvenes Maicao, we motivate young leaders to participate in civic and political activities in a variety of ways. Through our civic education workshops, we share the importance of political participation. We also empower young leaders through leadership and communication training and seek to inspire the wider community by sharing success stories. We connect young people with community and political leaders, offer volunteer opportunities and invite them to join relevant social campaigns. Through discussions and events, we raise awareness of civic issues. By involving young people in local projects, we give them the opportunity to make a difference and a positive change in their community. We also create online spaces for debate and teach them political advocacy strategies. Finally, we celebrate the achievements of our young leaders to reinforce their sense of belonging and success. All of these strategies add up to inspire, empower, and support our active participation in the community and on political issues.
How are young people in your country challenging barriers to political participation?
CJM: In our country, young people are boldly challenging the barriers to political participation. We are using social media as a key tool to mobilize other young people and spread relevant information about political issues. Through online activism, we organize virtual campaigns and collect digital signatures on petitions to raise awareness and push for change. We do not lag behind in protests and demonstrations, we raise our voices in unity to demand greater attention to crucial issues.
Being part of youth organizations allows us to advocate for political participation and work together to overcome obstacles. In addition, we invest time in educational programs that help us better understand the political process and find effective ways to be heard. Through political awareness campaigns, we seek to inform and motivate other young people to join the political conversation.
We challenge ourselves to take on leadership roles, whether in student positions or local offices, to drive change from within the system. In addition, we strive to ensure diverse representation in politics by advocating for youth voices at all levels of decision-making. Collaborating with civil society groups enables us to influence public policy and address issues effectively.
We engage in constructive dialogues with political and government leaders, contributing our ideas and perspectives in the search for solutions. Our commitment is clear: to overcome barriers and work tirelessly to build a more just and participatory society for all.
Can you share one way your organization is helping young people reimagine and reinvigorate participation and democracy in your country?
CJM: We are promoting an innovative program called "Democracia Joven," which seeks to foster active and creative political participation among young people. Through this program, we are providing spaces for dialogue and collaboration where young people can reimagine the way they participate in democracy and contribute new ideas to revitalize it.
Under "Democracia Joven," we organize interactive workshops and events that encourage critical reflection on the current political system and how it can be transformed to be more inclusive and responsive to young voices. We encourage young people to think of innovative solutions to address political and social challenges and provide them with tools to communicate their ideas effectively.
In addition, we are using technology and social media to amplify youth voices. We create online platforms where they can share their perspectives, submit proposals and connect with other young people who are passionate about civic engagement. We also organize online contests and challenges that encourage creativity and engagement around political issues.
Ultimately, through the "Democracia Joven" program, our organization is empowering young people to become active agents of change in our country's democracy, encouraging them to reimagine and revitalize their participation and contribute new ideas that can positively transform the political system and society as a whole.
What impact has NDI’s partnership had on your organization?
CJM: Thanks to this collaboration, we have strengthened effective leadership in our territory and formalized our actions. The advanced training provided by NDI has empowered us to guide other youth more effectively and has improved our strategies to promote civic participation. In addition, NDI's prestige has increased our visibility and credibility in the community, allowing us to reach more young people interested in participating in political and civic life. In short, this partnership has been instrumental to our growth and success in empowering young people and revitalizing democratic participation in our community.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.