Malta is the most densely populated country in the EU with over 1,200 people per km2 - almost three times that of the Netherlands! - a quarter of whom are young people between 13 and 30 years of age.
The voting age in local elections in Malta has been lowered to 16 years and voting among young people in national and European elections is among the highest in the EU.
Malta's Youth Village, which provides space, facilities and supports for young people opened on 12 December 2015.
According to a survey published by Aġenzija Żgħażagħ in 2012, the first such survey in Malta:
Almost 85% of young people described themselves as happy or very happy with their lives.
Over 95% of young people have a computer/laptop, mobile phone and access to the internet.
Over 60% of young people are optimistic about the future.
The Youth Discussion Group took place at Msida Youth Cafe on Friday 27 February 2015. A cross-section of 14 young people, between the ages of 15 and 20 took part in the discussion group. Of these 10 were males and 4 females; 9 were in second level education while 5 were in post-second level education or training, but none were at university.
Friendship, making new friends and associating with friends emerged from the discussion as one of the main interests, concerns and motivations for the participants' involvement in professional open youth work. The participants sought a wide range of benefits from youth work: a safe space, a comfort zone where they can relax with friends and pursue personal interests, and varied events and activities in which they not only participate but also help organise and run.
The aim in establishing Aġenzija Żgħażagħ was to develop programmes, services and supports for young people and to mainstream youth related issues. As of 2013, youth work is a recognised and regulated profession in Malta with designated salary levels. Malta’s national youth policy Towards 2020 provides for a range of action plans that will be implemented over the period 2015-2020.
Since its establishment in 2010, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ has put in place nationwide administrative structures and operational procedures for the promotion and implementation of youth work practice – including professional open youth work – and youth related services. The agency now has 35 full-time staff, including 20 professionally qualified youth workers. The agency also has 18 professional youth workers on a service contract basis to work in the evenings and weekends in youth cafes and conduct detached youth work.
The agency’s new premises, which it moved into in early 2015, enables it to house most of its staff and services on the one site, including a Youth Information One Stop Shop ( YIOSS). The new site also houses the Youth Village, which provides space, facilities and supports for young people and youth NGOs to organise events and initiatives. A sports facility and a youth residential center are also being planned for the site.
Aġenzija Żgħażagħ has also developed and implemented a wide range of programmes, projects and initiatives to address and help meet young people’s needs and aspirations. With a view to promoting professional open youth work, new spaces at local community level for young people have been opened including youth activity centres and the first youth cafes and youth hubs in Malta which are operating at strategic locations around the island.
The purpose of youth cafes is to carry out professional open youth work at the heart of the community and to provide services that are accessible, available and responsive to the needs of young people. Youth cafes are facilities that offer a safe and supportive environment where young people can spend their leisure time and explore their talents while developing the personal and social skills essential in adult and working life. Youth cafes are located and operate alongside other community and learning support services.
An interactive web portal Youth Information Malta was set up in early 2011 and is updated on a regular basis while Kellimni.Com provides an online personal support service for young people. A new Kellimni App has been developed and launched to provide better online support to young people. A wide range of programmes, projects and initiatives have also been undertaken in youth empowerment, contemporary arts, social drama, literature, local democracy, music, volunteering and further study.
offer a safe and supportive environment where young people can spend their leisure time and explore their talents
A shared vision for the future of young people
There has been a strong focus on engaging with and consulting young people on their views, concerns and aspirations and in promoting their democratic participation and intercultural and social awareness. Cooperation with relevant ministries and agencies, at both national and local level, has also been promoted with a view to developing a coordinated cross-sectoral approach in meeting young people’s needs.
The national youth policy Towards 2020 – A shared vision for the future of young people –
which will focus on all 13 to 30 year olds, and which will be implemented by Aġenzija Żgħażagħ, relevant ministries and agencies over the period 2015-2020, has two related aims
The policy’s vision is of young people who are respected, valued and listened to and supported and encouraged in building fulfilling personal and social relationships and in developing their innate abilities and talents for the benefit of themselves, their communities and society. The overarching values of the policy are respect, recognition, and sustained support and solidarity, and these are underpinned by principles of responsiveness, access, participation, inclusion, integration, diversity, empowerment and equality.
The policy will be implemented through two specific but interdependent strategies that complement the two policy aims. Each of the two strategies has a number of designated Action Plans under which specific actions will be undertaken and implemented over the six year timeframe 2015-2020.
Strategy 1 – Youth work and services for young people.
Strategy 2 – Cross-sectoral supports for young people.
Resources and supports will be further developed and expanded over the period 2015-2020 with the twin objective of building the human and physical capacities of the youth sector, including the voluntary youth sector, and providing it with the skills and competences to support the development of young people. These additional resources and supports will also ensure that Malta’s presidency of the EU, Valletta 18 and other international events will be both memorable and productive for young people.
The policy also includes a research programme that will help ensure that it continues to be both evidence-based and outcome-focused.
The implementation of the policy will be monitored on an annual basis and at the end of the period 2015-2020, an independent evaluation will be conducted on the overall impact
of the policy and the benefits accruing for young people, the voluntary youth sector and the wider society.
by Miriam Teuma (2016)
Miriam Teuma has 25 years experience as a youth work practitioner, organiser and policy maker and as a lecturer at the University of Malta. She was appointed as the first Chief Executive of Agenzija Zghazagh, the National Youth Agency of Malta, in December 2010.
Photos: Cover © Alexandra Beweis, other © Agenzija Zghazagh
Video: © Agenzija Zghazagh