Search for Common Ground (Search) implemented #YoshStan: Raising Youth Voices in Local Decision-Making funded by the European Union from April 2020 to May 2022 in collaboration with its local partner in Uzbekistan, Hamroh. YoshStan aims to contribute to promoting youth-oriented services in Andijan oblast through collaboration between youth civil society organizations (CSOs) and local authorities (LAs). To achieve this overall objective, YoshStan effectively engaged, trained, and empowered youth and youth CSOs and LAs in Andijan and launched a movement for youth empowerment.
Youth in Uzbekistan want to be involved in decision making processes that affect them and are eager to create organizations where they see a vacuum, but they lack funding and training to do so sustainably and successfully. These issues persist despite the reform laws and policies passed by the government that aimed to support youth in this regard. YoshStan sought to strengthen the participation of youth CSOs in local decision-making through investing in confidence and trust-building with government stakeholders and providing access to capacity building, dialogue, and networking opportunities for CSO members and government stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to ensure a meaningful and structured collaboration between youth CSOs and governmental authorities at the local level in order to ensure more inclusive governance processes.
Theory of Change
IF civil society and local governments collaborate to promote youth-inclusive decision-making, and IF a supportive social environment for youth participation is fostered at the community level, THEN more inclusive youth policies will lead to enhanced governance and development at the local level.
Core Objectives and Activities
YoshStan’s intended outcome was to enhance the capacity of youth CSOs and LAs to collaboratively promote the meaningful and structured participation of youth CSOs on strengthening deliverability of youth services in Andijan oblast. This was achieved through capacity building activities for local civil society actors, especially youth CSOs and activists and LAs from Andijan, in collaborative leadership and non-adversarial advocacy to engage youth around their particular needs. As well as Strengthening collaboration between youth CSOs and LAs to engage youth in local decision-making processes through town hall meetings, youth-led action grants, and learning conferences.
- In total, the project reached 1,590 participants (692 male, 898 female), including LAs, CSOs, youth aged 15 to 32, and community members, including teachers, business owners, and parents of the youth participants.
- Search and Hamroh trained 28 (11 male, 17 female) active youth and youth leaders from the target areas on leadership and collaborative advocacy through two multi-day training sessions. The participants increased their knowledge by 58 per cent on constructive advocacy, 46 per cent on economic inclusion, and 40 per cent on leadership, networking, and collaboration. This prepared youth to establish close cooperation with LAs to become part of the decision-making process in the target communities.
- Search and Hamroh also built the capacity of 34 LAs (12 male, 22 female) on effective, equitable, inclusive local governance through two training sessions. The second training session was organized at the same time as the training session for youth, offering an opportunity for youth and LAs to exchange and build relationships instrumental to the success of the project.
- “The project certainly improved my life and the lives of the youths in the mahalla. Before the project, many problems were not given due attention. From the side of local governments, the state did not carry out any work to solve the problems of youths in our mahalla. As a result of motivational training, we have become more socially active, and this has benefited us. You can even say that many of my goals were achieved precisely within the framework of the YoshStan project.” – Youth participant
- The Action provided a concrete avenue for collaborative decision-making by organizing 20 town hall meetings across the seven targeted mahallas in Andijan, bringing together a total of 711 participants (290 male, 421 female).
- 12 youth participants aged between 17 and 32 received action grants to implement a social project addressing some of the issues identified in the needs assessment and discussed during the first series of town hall meetings. These social projects reached 467 young people and children (212 male, 255 female) across seven mahallas, among the most vulnerable in their communities. These action grants gave the youth recipients and beneficiaries skills and confidence in their ability as youths to contribute to the community and address creatively and collaboratively some of the challenges they face.
- Search developed a roadmap to inform the implementation of youth initiatives at the local government level in Uzbekistan. This roadmap is based on the learning generated through the implementation of this project. It combines insights from LA, YoshStan youth and youth CSOs, NGOs, and representatives of relevant state agencies.
- “In our mahalla, three action grants were won, and all of them are aimed at solving the main problems of our community. One of the grants was directed to the opening of a private kindergarten, where children from low-income families stayed free of charge. We, the holders of two grants, interacted since the children of my workers studied in this kindergarten. The third recipient of the grant taught the population of our village computer and IT technologies.” – Youth participant
- The final evaluation showed that youth became involved in decision-making processes as a result of the project, with 3% of the youths surveyed being satisfied with the quality of youth-oriented social services in the targeted area, an increase of 67 points from the baseline, where only 2% of the youth surveyed reported being satisfied.
Thanks to YoshStan, youth are now recognised as a source of solutions to address the needs of their communities in Andijan. “YoshStaners” inspire other youths to become involved in their community, create their business, and pursue an education. Ultimately, after two years of implementation, “YoshStan” became more than the name of the project. It now constitutes a movement for young people in Andijan to become active members of their communities, a positive force of change for a more inclusive future in Uzbekistan.