Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change

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Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change

The Malaysian Red Crescent (MRC) is a member of 191 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies worldwide whose mission is to prevent and alleviate human suffering, thereby contributing to the maintenance and promotion of human dignity and peace. Thanks to its diverse base of 30,000 active volunteers of which almost 50% are youth aged between 18 and 30, the Malaysian Red Crescent reaches out to even the most remote communities and ensures the ‘last mile’ delivery of humanitarian aid and services.

 

The MRC is committed to promote social inclusion and a culture of non-violence and peace (CNV+P) in line with Strategic Aim 3 of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the Movement) Strategy 2020. In short, changing a culture of violence into one of peace requires a national mind and behavioural shift from the way we currently think and interact: from being locked into differences to valuing diversity and pluralism, from adverse reaction to joint response and proactive prevention, from exclusion based on fear to connection based on our common humanity, from resorting to verbal or physical violence when feeling threatened to constructive dialogue and trust.

 

The MRC believes that youth are a powerful catalyst for change, whose energy and skills need to be harnessed when pursuing societal transformation leading to a CNV+P. The youth of the Movement gathered in June 2009 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Red Cross Red Crescent, founded by Jean Henri Dunant after he witnessed the agony of dying and wounded soldiers on the battlefields of Solferino (Italy), and mobilized 7,000 female volunteers to provide them with care and relief. On this occasion, youth defined their vision of humanity and called upon their national societies and governments to enable youth to take a leadership role in positively changing behaviours and attitudes in our communities using peer and non-formal education methods, such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) “Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change” (YABC) initiative.

What is YABC?

YABC is the IFRC’s flagship initiative on the promotion of a culture of non-violence and peace (CNV+P). It was created in 2008 for youth and with youth from Red Cross and Red Crescent worldwide. YABC empowers them to take up an ethical leadership role in inspiring a positive transformation of mindsets, attitudes and behaviours within themselves and their community. It is built on three pillars: youth empowerment, operating from inner peace and reaching out to the community.

 

First of all, the YABC initiative raises youth’s awareness and understanding of issues related to the promotion of a culture of non-violence and peace (CNV+P). Actually, what YABC stimulates is a personal reflection and positioning on these thematic issues. A key question within the YABC programme is, for instance: “Is it really so?” YABC helps youth realize that there is no ‘black-and-white truth’. It encourages them to develop their own perspective or view, so that they own it truly and take the responsibility for acting upon it.

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John Doe
Designer

Development of skills to promote a CNV+P

Secondly, the YABC initiative equips youth with specific, real tools to walk on the path of promoting a CNV+P, through the development of interpersonal skills to enable them to interact and live together peacefully. Acquiring and applying these skills allows youth to also ‘embody’, or represent, the seven Fundamental Principles of the Movement and their underpinning humanitarian values, or to be role models to inspire their communities.

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John Doe
Designer

A non-cognitive or ‘from the heart to the mind’ methodology

The YABC initiative is rooted in a participant-centred, experiential learning approach. It also relies on a non-cognitive methodology, meaning that feelings, experience, or the physical body, rather than intellectual analysis, are the entry points for learning. Youth are introduced to thematic issues or develop skills through games, role-plays, simulation and visualization exercises, storytelling and ‘internal arts’. In a second phase, youth share experiences with their peers and reflect together. In this way, they make a ‘from their heart to their mind’ learning journey.

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John Doe
Designer

Peer education and mentoring

YABC learning comes from within and through exchange with peers. Knowledge is not ‘conveyed’ unilaterally, nor ‘taught down’ by adults. Youth are more receptive and open to learn from other youth, and peer education favours exchange at a level of equality, trust and thought-provoking learning where solutions are explored together.

 

The YABC educational approach works on the principle of the cascading effect as YABC youth readily multiply this learning within their Red Cross and Red Crescent national society and local community. After trainings, YABC peer educators transfer the acquired learning and skills to other youth, volunteers and staff within their Red Cross and Red Crescent national society. This therefore equips them with the means to act as agents of behavioural change in their local communities. For example, the initial 24 youth who were trained as YABC peer educators have reached out to 702 youth from all over the country in a period of just six months.  

 

 

After this active phase of YABC peer education and implementation at the local level, YABC peer educators are partnered with YABC trainers of peer educators who will coach them towards becoming YABC trainers of peer educators. This has enabled the exponential growth of the global network of both YABC peer educators and trainers of peer educators.

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