Mialy is a young researcher from Madagascar. She’s been speaking to youth civil society organisations about the challenges they’re facing, as part of the Development Alternative a project to ensure young people, their communities and youth civil society are thriving. She spoke to us about why these activities – listening to young people and helping their voices be heard – can have a big impact on development, and the future of her country.
Hi Mialy, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became involved with the Development Alternative?
My name is Mialy Sombiniaina Rakotondrasoa, I’m 24 years old and I live in Madagascar. I’ve been volunteering with YMCA Madagascar for four years, and it’s through YMCA that I heard about Restless Development and the Development Alternative programme that they are working on together.
I wanted to get involved in research as I was very inspired by the activities around young people. There is a new dynamic that young people are bringing, not only in Madagascar but all around the world. And I want to add value to these things by doing research – seeing how they are doing, and what are the new approaches and new tools that they bring. Who knows about young people, if not young people?
Can you give us an example of these new tools?
In Madagascar we use a lot of Facebook. For us it’s the best tool for communication and information. Everybody – especially young people – are on Facebook. So we used that platform to identify youth led organisations and get in contact with them.
I see that in Madagascar a lot of young people want to do something. They want to give their input for development and they want to see change in their community and in the country. A lot of young people, between the age of 15 and 25 years old, feel we cannot stand this anymore, let’s just do something! So they begin by telling a friend – maybe by posting on their facebook page – ‘you should not accept this any more’, like toxic masculinity for example.
They begin to share some information and there are a lot of young people that may be of the same mind and they combine. They become an association, they become an organisation, all through the post on Facebook. They are trying – they are striving – to have their voice heard. But I think it’s not totally valued by older people and governments.
Why do you think that young people’s voices are so important when it comes to development?
Young people have energy, creativity, they have a different point of view and way of seeing things. If we consider them more we can find that there is a lot of information that can be used for development. For example when the government is making the National Youth Policy, they have to consider young peoples’ point of view – what is the priority for youth?
I think it’s very good that we consider young people as the real decision makers of their lives. I will not say that we should leave adults out. It’s good as well to have experience, but I think there should not be a gap between young people and adults, they should work together and try to be in the same place and discuss and debate their ideas.
What sort of data have you collected? What lessons are you able to teach development actors about young people as a result?
A lot of the information and data we’ve collected tells us about the real needs of youth-led civil society organisations. It’s not just the problems, but they’re also telling us solutions they think could be good for them. For example they said ‘we don’t know where the donors are, we don’t know how to apply’. So, they gave the solution: ‘If you can make a map of all the donors and their requirements, that will be very nice. But, before that, you have to teach us how to apply, like writing proposals and making a good financial report.’
So they are willing to learn. Most of all, as young people, as youth-led people, we really want to learn. Being involved in this research – in youth-led research – it makes you feel that you are learning and you are growing your skills. It’s given me a lot of self-confidence as well.
Are there any other young people that inspire you?
My hero is Adrienne Irma Rabemanantsoa. She’s a young person and she’s doing great things in Madagascar. She’s an interpreter and she created her own interpreter organisation and they are doing translation and interpretation and even when the President of Rwanda came to Madagascar, she was the official interpreter of the President.
Doing the work that you like, you don’t feel like you work – it’s your passion. She really lives her passion. She’s inspired a lot of people and she’s very young. She always says that if you have a dream, do it. It’s ok if it doesn’t always go well, just don’t give up.