Laughing Women has long supported programs that offer young people opportunities to build their knowledge of the region and to become engaged in leadership development activities. In 2011, we announced a new initiative focused on building the leadership skills and civic engagement of young people ages 13 to 30. To increase the number, quality and diversity of civically engaged young leaders within different communities, thereby increasing the leadership pipeline for young adults in the various regions.
Development of leadership skills has been identified as a need for sustaining and growing local communities. An in-depth leadership training program is needed for youth to create opportunities for youth. These are the youth who may be most likely to remain in communities and become future leaders and community supporters.
Our Youth leadership programme allows youth invest their energy in learning about working together for a better society, contributing in various leadership capacities now and in the future.
To provide comprehensive strategy with a clear mission and goals; committed, caring, professional leadership; youth-centred activities in youth-accessible facilities; culturally competent and diverse programs; youth ownership and involvement, and a positive focus including all youth.
We also believe in sharing this passion by enabling all types of participation in youth training and youth leadership development opportunities.
The overall goal of the Youth Leadership Development programme is to invest in building the capacity of young people in leadership skills and thereby unleash their potential as leaders in their organisations and communities.
POSITIVE YOUTH LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Laughing Women has developed a highly successful model for intervention called the Laughing Women Process.
The Laughing Women Process of leadership development can be described by three words: Awareness, Analysis and Action.
To become effective leaders, youth must
- Be aware of themselves
- Be aware of their current situation and challenges.
- Be aware of their goals and aspirations.
- Be aware of their potential for success and leadership.
- Be aware of the community that surrounds them.
Once aware, youth must analyse themselves and their communities, become knowledgeable about them, and become able to propose solutions. Awareness and analysis however are not sufficient.
Action must follow. Youth must not only be able to chart the course of action, but they must also engage in implementing solutions. This is an active process that applies equally to individual development as to social action. In this process, LW assists, supports and nurtures youth, providing educational opportunities, guidance and validation – all within the context of reinforcing pride in the student’s cultural background and his/her self-esteem. Through the LW Process, young people work together, support each other, learn about and promote their heritage, and develop skills and commitment to serve their community.
It also engages parents and families to become active partners in education. The LW mission of community development through youth empowerment addresses the needs of young people from a positive perspective of caring and confidence in their potential.
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
Youth Leadership training programme rests on four premises.
- Youth empowerment is a process of human growth and development and a framework for youth services.
- The youth empowerment approach promotes greater participation and involvement of youth in the public affairs of the community. Youth are not viewed as community problems, but as community assets and resources.
- Through empowerment, youth are provided with opportunities to develop the competencies they need to become successful contributors to their communities. Youth are empowered when they feel they have choices in life, when they are aware of the implications of their choices, when they make informed decisions freely, when they engage in action based on their informed decision, and when they become accountable for the consequences of their actions.
- Youth who are focused on achievement work toward goals and avoid behaviours that would prevent attaining their goals
Studies shows that Youths have identified the following factors that influence their feelings of empowerment:
- Non-authoritarian adult leadership,
- Being able to experience and exercise power, receiving education and training, participating in critical analysis of issues, experiencing an environment of safety, closeness and appreciation, being able to honestly express opinions and emotions, accepting diversity, developing a voice, and being able to take action
OUR KEY FOCUS
Resilience has been identified as a characteristic of youth who, when exposed to multiple risk factors, show successful responses to challenges.
Research has shown that youth survive adversity when they are supported by caring and nurturing adults who help them develop a sense of purpose. Mentors and teachers can model caring relationships, maintain high expectations, and provide opportunities to participate and contribute. These factors buffer risk and enable positive development by meeting young people’s basic needs for safety, love, a sense of belonging, respect, power, accomplishment, and learning.
At least 50 percent of vulnerable youth grow up to be successful and confident, competent, and caring in their personal attitudes and behaviours
In a longitudinal developmental study of resilience, most successful youth had someone in their families, schools, or communities that modelled caring relationships, set high expectations, provided opportunities to participate, and received critical developmental support that shifted their life path from risk to resilience.
Assets are positive experiences, relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.
Our model identifies four categories of external assets
- Support – Youth need support, care, and love from their families and others, and they need organizations and institutions that provide positive, supportive environments
- Empowerment – Young people need to feel valued and contribute to their communities. For this to occur, they must be safe and feel secure
- Boundaries and expectations – Young people need to know what is expected of them and whether activities and behaviours are acceptable or unacceptable
- Constructive use of time – Young people need constructive, enriching opportunities for growth through creative activities, youth programs, congregational involvement, and quality time at home
Our model identifies also identifies four categories of internal assets.
- Commitment to learning – Young people need to develop a lifelong commitment to learning
- Positive values – Youth need to develop strong values that guide their choices
- Social competencies – Young people need skills and competencies that equip them to make positive choices, to build relationships, and to succeed in life
- Positive identity – Young people need a strong sense of their own power, purpose, worth, and promise