Youth Justice Phase 1
Between 2015 and 2017, YMCAs in Zambia, Togo and South Africa, the YWCA in Zambia with partnership from YMCA/YWCA of Sweden altogether implemented a 3 year Youth Justice project. The basis for this project was to address the challenges facing young people in either in conflict with the law or those at risk of getting into conflict with the law in the three countries.
The project was conducted in the backdrop setting that Juvenile justice in Africa is a relatively new research area. It was not until the early sixties that research began to be published. Initially, the study of Juvenile delinquency – as it has been frequently referred – was focussed on the cultural and emotional reasons why young people commit crime. With time and more research, the study of youth and crime expanded to cover and examine socio-economic realities faced by young people as a key factor affecting youth justice. These realities have come to include situations of youth both in and out of prison, and to also cover rehabilitation and post-incarceration activities and programmes.
There is evidence that poor access to education and lack of sustainable income opportunities predispose young people to being in conflict with the law. The YMCA has over a period of time sought to address these challenges by providing access to alternative opportunities for Vocational training, skills acquisition and on the job preparedness. The South Africa YMCA, for example, have been preparing post-detainee youth to be better adjusted to long-term job opportunities specifically as a strategy to address high rates of recidivism that are reported in the country.
With rates about 70% and 80% in Togo and South Africa respectively, Recidivism is a tremendously daunting challenge. Many prisons in Africa do not operate as rehabilitative centres, but are instead havens for illegal drugs, gang crime, violence and even murder. Many of the youth who leave these facilities end up back for various reasons, one of which is stigma and discrimination attached to having served time in prison. The situation is exacerbated by an apparent dearth of funding for and policy weaknesses in implementing rehabilitative and post-release services.
The YMCA/YWCA partners implementing the project adopted a Theory of Change that was based on the Subject to Citizen (S2C) Philosophy of empowering youth to move from being subjects in oppressive systems to being active citizens whose voice is heard, who have space to act and who can influence their communities. This ensured that the basis for intervention was based on a conceptual framework that could be tested, and that this project would be a prototype of engaging in youth work for youth in conflict with the law.
Youth Justice Phase 2
Phase two will be implemented in partnership with Sweden YWCA/YMCA and four National Movements: Togo YMCA, South Africa YMCA and new comers Senegal YMCA and Madagascar YMCA. There was a start up meeting in Togo for the two new national movements to learn the experiences from SA YMCA and Togo YMCA because they were in phase 1 of the project.
The main objective of the project is: Youth in conflict with the law and those at risk of offending have taken steps towards active citizenship in all program countries during the program period.