Youth Participation in Community Development: A Case Study of Youth in Takeo Province, Cambodia
Youth participation in community development has been viewed as one of the most effective methods for promoting young people’s active engagement with social services. However in rural communities of Cambodia, young people’s participation is most commonly related to their labour contribution, which lacks core components of participation such as decisions, choices, and management. Zeldin (2004) explains that adults usually initiate organisational structures and norms for young people’s participation, which can inhibit young people from reaching their needs or interests. Addressing these issues this thesis, from a qualitative perspective, aims to contribute to local understandings about youth participation in development. With a focus on Cambodia, it explores the grounded experiences of two youth groups in order to offer considerations for social practice, programme implementations and further studies. The research involved in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observations with youth, village chiefs, commune councils, NGO staff, a church leader, a school teacher and young people’s parents in Chumras Pen commune, Samroang district, Takeo Province of Cambodia. The examination of local perspectives of youth participation is unravelled through participants’ practical experience and knowledge. The respondents considered charitable contributions of youth as their primary form of active participation, including educational awareness and campaigns in the community. Provided there are some positive outcomes from youth engagement, one of the influential aspects is contributed by local partnerships. This substantial contribution stimulates interactions between key local members and youth so they can work together for positive change in the community. This thesis suggests that young people do need support from key local groups or recognised agents to assist them in initiating participation in terms of forming groups, and providing training and coaching to open new possibilities and strengthen youth’s initiatives. The study also reveals several factors which have both direct and indirect effects on youth participation practices. These include religion and development, power relations, and women’s leadership. This research suggests that these factors either motivate or inhibit youth participation because of social norms and cultural acceptance.