MATÃO, Brazil – Imagine a city where the power of young voices resonates through the corridors of political decision-making. In Matão, this vision has become a reality with the Youth Parliament (YP) initiative. YP represents a political education space where young individuals are elected annually to propose city improvements, learn about citizenship, and advocate for their rights. Since 2015, Instituto Terroá has been driving transformative movement involving young people. In Matão, the initiative has been taking place since 2020, with the support of the Votorantim Institute and Citrosuco.
YP’s main goals are twofold: empowering youth for civic life and democratic engagement and helping institutions actively listen and make these experiences educational. The initiative thrives on diversity and inclusion, inviting young people from all backgrounds to contribute their unique perspectives. YP also creates a dynamic space where relationships flourish, ideas flow, and political knowledge evolves. It is a powerful platform where people connect, voices are heard, and positive change comes to life.
The initiative looks at a network of more than 30 organizations – government organizations, NGOs, schools, companies and other local actors, including the City Council. Through workshops, debates, and other activities, the initiative encourages dialogue and collaboration between the various sectors involved, creating a network of actors committed to social participation and sustainable development.
In just three years, the YP initiative has reached five cities in different Brazilian states, impacting over 11,000 individuals. By promoting citizen participation and collaboration between different sectors, YP has managed to generate public policy recommendations, directly influencing the work of the municipal legislature, approving laws and measures that promote sustainable development.
YP’s achievements are remarkable: Afro-Brazilian culture classes implemented in schools, improvements in public squares, a network of more than 30 municipal organizations advocating for youth rights, the creation of vital institutional spaces like the Youth Council and Youth Forum as well as hosting Democracy Festivals. In addition, the YP has a greater participation of girls, in contrast to other Brazilian political spaces, i.e., rewriting the guarantee of full participation of girls and women in decision-making spaces.
YP goes beyond traditional boundaries, embracing the potential of every young person. It extends a helping hand to underrepresented individuals, including those with disabilities and who face social vulnerability. Notably, YP breaks barriers by having a substantial representation of young women councilors, challenging gender imbalances in official city councils.
The YP Initiative is a finalist in the Connect Category, as it revolutionizes the landscape of public policymaking in Brazil. By prioritizing inclusivity and diversity, the initiative ensures participation of girls and women in decision-making spaces, empowering them to shape their communities. It fosters local networks that strengthen democracy and citizenship, amplifying the voices of young people and diverse actors across the territories where it is active. With a strong focus on centering youth, the Youth Parliament Initiative establishes connections that amplify youth impact, generating a ripple effect of positive change. In doing so, it lays the groundwork for a future that is both equitable and sustainable.