At a young age, Frank Mae found the courage to stand up for what he needed, maturing and forced to leave behind his childhood faster than some of his peers.
This can be an intimidating, thus challenging, task for most young people, especially when some adults dismiss their voices. Overcoming those obstacles through creating space for himself in his own community by expressing his opinions, Frank said he wanted to empower other young people.
Frank joined youth groups to unite his voice with others who wanted to create a more just and inclusive society. “I always want to give to my community and be the voice for the people who have the same hardships as me,” he said.
At first, he found it difficult to see how the impact of his voice could make a difference unless it reached the highest level of the government. In Solomon Islands, as Frank noted, many young people do not participate in electoral or political processes.
“I always thought that I could only implement change at the highest level,” Frank said. “I always thought that international organizations and civil society organizations could only start the initiatives for young people.”
Ellena Kelly, a young woman with a disability, felt the same way as Frank. She struggled in accessing information and services, especially for her own health.
“A lot of persons with disabilities have no chance to participate in life,” Ellena said. “I didn’t really understand political rights or political parties.”
Both Frank and Ellena learned about a civic edutainment toolkit, Tok, Act, Engage!, produced by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). The name of the toolkit reflects encouraging young people to learn and communicate important civic engagement topics (“tok” in Pijin, a local dialect spoken in Solomon Islands), act as democratic leaders, and engage their peers.
Inspired by how the toolkit combined games and educational material to teach young people about these topics, Frank and Ellena trained to share the toolkit with other people and promote the toolkit’s use among diverse community members, including young people with disabilities, young women, and older friends and family members.
“I’ve realized that I don’t have to be in a position of power to influence change,” Frank said. “I can use the games to play in my household and community as a casual way of easily changing other young people’s perceptions on civic education. I began to think of other ideas, even if it is on a very low level.”
Ellena said she already sees an impact with the way family members of persons with disabilities are understanding how they can create more inclusive democracies.
“The beginning of this year, I went out to a province, and I advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities, and then family members [of persons with disabilities] saw the need to include their family members [with disabilities] in the discussions to help them access their rights in the community,” Ellena said. “The need is for family members to break the barriers to support them.”
Frank said now, he even runs his own social media page to post content for young people in his free time.
“IFES taught me that even I, at a low level, I can contribute,” Frank said.
The Tok, Act, Engage! Toolkit includes six games focused on elections, inclusive democratic processes, and positive community engagement. Each game can be facilitated by young leaders and shared with other community members to learn new content while, for example, simulating the voting process in an interactive game, acting out democratic roles and actions in a charades game, and learning how to engage in dialogue in a role-playing game. All game materials, and a facilitator manual, areis included in the toolkit.
IFES’s civic “edutainment” toolkits combine education on topics such as democracy and elections with entertainment, including interactive games and activities. IFES has created and implemented civic edutainment toolkits for programming around the world, including in Guyana, to support young people as civic educators and leaders in their communities. For more information on IFES’s civic edutainment toolkits and games, see IFES’s 2022 Annual Report.
Tok, Act, Engage! is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).