Search for Common Ground Kyrgyzstan’s Youth Led Civic Campaign for Cohesive Communities in Kyrgyzstan was a eight month project from April 2021 – December 2021 in partnership with Jash Niet, Peace Initiatives, Steps to Success, and Talas Regional Youth Council (TOSM) that laid the foundation for youth’s improved civic engagement in democratic political processes by promoting a new supportive youth identity in the Kyrgyz Republic. Search targeted a total of 126 young women and men peacebuilders between the ages of 16-28, including youth that previously participated in Search’s JashStan program. The program enabled youth to promote constructive dialogue and contribute to the policy discussions at the national level. Additionally, the program strengthened the level of knowledge and skills among youth on public outreach and local media campaigns.
Core Objectives and Activities
The overall goal of the project was to promote a new supportive identity among youth for improved civic engagement in democratic political processes. To accomplish this goal, Search had two objectives:
- Enhancing youth participation at the local level over major national level decisions.
- Enabling a policy dialogue to support local level conflict mitigation efforts.
Seach’s activities in support of these goals included conducting two rounds of Progressive Generation Labs (ProGLab) with youth, developing public campaigns, and creating policy briefs for policy change at the national level. These activities developed participants’ critical knowledge, practical skills, and action driven tools and thus developed their ability to organize advocacy and awareness raising campaigns aimed at improving civic participation around electoral issues and critically reflecting upon forms of governance.
- Strengthened level of knowledge and skills among youth on public outreach and media campaigns over political themes: A total of 9 workshops were held engaging 130 youth (58 male, 72 female) in the first round and 128 youth (76 female, 52 male) in the second. Participants on average demonstrated a 14 percent increase in knowledge as a result of the first round ProGLab training; and in the second round, participants on average demonstrated a 22 percent increase in knowledge.
- Enabled youth to promote constructive dialogue, youth engagement, women’s empowerment: participants organized a total of 42 offline and 42 online media products (18 videos, 3 infographics, 5 Tik-Tok videos, 21 social videos, and 21 infographics across the project’s 21 target regions). 67 percent of participants were women. All media products can be viewed on social networks by following #idemilge hashtag and @idemilge nickname. Through this presence, Search was able to reach a total of 30,859 people.
- Enhanced Policy Advocacy with youth at the national level: Participants developed three policy briefs: Formation of civic identity of Kyrgyz citizens as a condition for unification of the people of Kyrgyzstan and the weakening of ethnic negativism, Influence of religious factors on election processes in Kyrgyzstan: challenges of conscious voting, and Interaction of families and society in the process of educating young people in Kyrgyzstan. These policy briefs were discussed at a roundtable with representatives from government agencies, and civil society, in addition to experts, and activists. More than 85 representatives of different fields participated offline in the roundtables, and 5 representatives participated online. As a result, three national round tables in Bishkek and seven round tables were held in the regions.
“I am a 4th year student at Talas State University. Participating in the project, I conducted a number of information campaigns for students to promote the concept of “Kyrgyz jarany” and conscious choice. These activities gave me the opportunity to become the president of Talas State University and gain the support of the student parliament. Currently, I am trying to revitalize the “Youth Center” at Talas State University, to work on new projects.” – Female participant from Talas.
Recommendations for Future Programming with Youth
- Support organizations that directly work with project participants need to develop a plan of action with youth.
- Adapt youth engagement approaches taking into account the modern interests of young people and modify the age of participants to between 18-25.
- Provide exchange trips for young people to other regions to exchange ideas, experiences and broaden their horizons. Since many of the participants did not even leave their regions and do not have an understanding of other regions. The ProGLabs that brought youth across regions together were highly well received by the participants and saw higher engagement as well as more knowledge gained.
- Advocate that governments work more closely with youth organizations and stimulate youth activity through mini grantsallocated from the local government budget.
- Funding for youth organizations by government agencies in conjunction with donor organizations.