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Youth Have A Voice - Qualitative Exploration Of A Participatory Action-Research Program

Cátia Branquinho*, Ana Cerqueira, Lúcia Ramiro and Margarida Gaspar de Matos

Although the participatory action-research programs with young people are increasingly common around the world, their inclusion in the evaluation of intervention programs in the area of health promotion is still not a rule. This study presents youths’ assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the Dream Teens project, along with its impact on their development as a person, the development of their individual action and their social support (family, school and community). Two studies are presented: study 1, referring to individual interviews, including a total of 12 young people, with a mean age of 18.5 years (± 1.62), mostly girls (83.3%) attending secondary school (41.67%), higher education (33.33%) and third grade (25%); and study 2, referring to a focus group that involved 8 young people, mostly girls (75%), age 18.5 years ( ± 2) attending higher education (37.5%), secondary school (37.5%) and third grade (25%). The NVivo software was used for the analysis and processing of data.

Overall, young people identify the establishment of goals in the project, the relationships established, the acquired knowledge and face-to-face meetings as forces; their difficulty in dealing with empowerment, and weak participation of some young people as weaknesses; the availability of local authorities and some teachers to listen to young people as opportunities; and the necessary bureaucracy in order for a project to be implemented, the lack of support from the educational community and some teachers, along with the lack of support of political power as threats.

In terms of impact on the participants, there is an increase in their capacity for the development of the person, in the promotion of their self-esteem, personal goals, a sense of community participation, communication skills and respect for themselves and for others; and their development of individual action, a greater political empowerment, development of skills and confidence for research-action, and relationships established. The opportunities created include the establishment of new contacts and the feeling of support from some political bodies at a social support level; promotion of active listening, capacity for argumentation and development of new interests at the family level; at school, these include better relationships with teachers and colleagues, better academic performance, easier coping with frustration, better acceptance of the other; and in the community, although they have not noticed significant changes, they believe that their work will have future repercussions.

This work is expected to contribute to an increase in the number of research-action programs with the participation of young people, enhancing their effectiveness as a way to promote their health and wellbeing.

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