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 WeSolve, a youth-powered coalition incubator in the Philippines where change-shapers and problem-owners from all sectors can scale social change through the power of collective action.
How would you describe the relationship between the young people you work with and democracy?
WeSolve: We see democracy in the Philippines as something we have to fight for. All over the country, young people are stepping up and taking leadership of sectors and in their communities. This may be in civil society, government, media, or even the private sector. With the results of the most recent elections, many young people do not see voting to put an ideal candidate in power as the purpose or end-goal of democracy, but empowering sectors so that regardless of whoever is in power, our communities can fight for their needs and hold government officials accountable.
What does youth political participation mean to you and your organization?
WeSolve: Political participation means creating spaces to ensure that the most marginalized members of our country are placed in the centers of governance. It means harnessing collective action so that problem-owners, whose voices are usually drowned out, are amplified by other sectors that stand in solidarity with them. Lastly, political participation means building trust across institutions so that the reforms we fight for outlive the organizations we represent.
How does your organization encourage or motivate young leaders to participate in civic and political activities?
WeSolve: We motivate young leaders in several ways:
(1) The Young Budget Leaders Program: Through our partnership with NDI and the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy (iLEAD), we trained 9 young leaders in civic movements to design, mobilize, and advocate for budget priorities that reflect the needs of their respective sectors. The program includes a part-time, paid fellowship, in which fellows learn government budgeting as a critical exercise of political participation whereby young people can raise their voices in support of the priorities that are important to them.
(2) The Young Mobility Leaders Program: In the “Move As One Coalition” program, we support local organizers who claim back political and physical spaces in the governance of transportation within their cities and municipalities.
(3) WeSolve Fellowship: All WeSolve fellows are empowered youth leaders who claim space in the country's political and advocacy landscape by convening sectors to fight together. We recognize that change makers need all forms of support because, in turn, they serve as the backbone and leaders in their communities. Support can include capacity-building, mentorship, a safe working environment, allowances for social security and health benefits, and just compensation for the labor of organizing.
How are young people in your country challenging barriers to political participation?
WeSolve: Filipino youth are helping to reshape how the country views democracy. For many of us, elections used to be the end-game for everything and served as the ultimate exercise of democratic participation. However, we’ve come to realize that civil society plays a huge role in not only calling for government accountability but also helping them deliver on their promises to citizens. WeSolve helps build the capacity of young leaders so that they can support social movements and coalitions that advocate for policies and budgets that their communities need and to call for accountability.
What impact has NDI’s partnership had on your organization?
WeSolve: Through the generous support of the National Democratic Institute (shoutout to Penghsuan and Alfred!), the Young Budget Leaders Program trained youth leaders from 8 critical sectors - labor, environmental justice, agriculture, inclusion of persons with disabilities, gender equality, gender justice and integration of trafficking victims, internally displaced peoples, and human rights survivors - to co-design local and national budgets with their sectors' needs and reflect what their communities deserve. Our fellows have engaged their local leaders and even national agencies to integrate budgets for their community's priority needs. One great example is our fellow Char Villaruel, who was even offered to lead the Persons with Disability Affairs Office in her province (Balanga, Bataan) because of her leadership in representing what her sector needs and reflecting that into proposals that the province can fund. These were possible because of NDI's work with WeSolve Foundation and iLEAD.
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.