“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.” - Rumi
Young people are the future. That almost goes without saying, right? But decisions are regularly made and policies are regularly created on behalf of young people that directly affect them and their futures, without any opportunity for input. Globally, young people are facing issues such as economic crises, climate change, housing issues and unemployment - recent estimates suggest that 600 million jobs would have to be created over the next 15 years to meet youth employment needs.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, and we are seeing the positive proactivism of our younger generations more than ever in recent times. The 12th August is the UN’s 20th annual International Youth Day, themed ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’, and seeks to engage young people in social, political and economic scenarios at the local, national and global level.
Simply put, it is to celebrate the ability of young people to make social change, whoever they are, wherever they are.
Is International Youth Day for me? Yes!
International Youth Day is commonly mistaken to be solely for young, keen Greta Thunberg-esque activists who have great visions to change the world on a global stage. In reality however, youth issues - both cultural and legal - concern all of us.
We should be listening to our young people when they speak, and supporting them by giving them a platform to share their views, scrutinise policy and shape the future they want.
We should be educating our young people (and ourselves) properly and critically on issues, listening to their ideas and concerns, and empowering them to take action.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the immense resilience, action and creativity of young people across the world. Many are key workers, healthcare students, volunteers and social media activists using their voices to support other people and make positive change. Some created videos of efficient handwashing, others sewed masks at home to ensure everyone had access to the basics. From making donations and fundraising, leading virtual classes on the dos and don’ts for coronavirus, telephone befriending and delivering essential supplies to people isolating, young people are using technology like never before to provide support.
An inspiring example is the CcHUB in Nigeria providing support to COVID-19 related projects. Check out the WHO and UNESCO’s webinar today to celebrate and discuss the initiatives created by young people during the pandemic.
But young people make their marks all across society, and it’s increasing rapidly thanks to something called the ‘Greta Effect’ empowering them to make their voices heard on other issues including anti-racism and a recent example being Scottish exam results U turn, pupils whose results were downgraded after moderation will have their marks changed after backlash.
Here at WCWD we have had the privilege of working with some incredible young people creating initiatives such as Chit Chat Britain - tackling the issue of loneliness - and The Crisis Project - sending letters of hope and thanks to NHS and care workers during the pandemic.
To recognise, commemorate and celebrate the influence of young people, events take place across the world each year For example, youth conferences on employment and education, concerts supporting the youth globally and parades and exhibitions showing the achievements of young people. To commemorate the cause this year, join the Live Event on YouTube on 12th August at 12:30 pm EDT (5:30 pm BST).
I don’t count as a youth, so how does it concern me?
Youth activism isn’t just about young people making change, it’s also about making change for young people. The matters include everything from the need for safe play spaces, like public parks, to the recognition of children's contributions to enterprises to reproductive health education, constructing a gender-inclusive curriculum for schools, mental health issues, climate and environmental issues and many other key topics.
These issues affect each and every one of us- directly and indirectly!
So, What Can We Do?
“They say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself” – Andy Warhol.
International Youth Day celebrates the potential of the younger generation as partners in today’s global society. These inspiring young people perfectly illustrate that, given the opportunity to work alongside adults in power, they can make enormous positive change.
Get to know some of them:
Sophie Cruz,10, an American activist on the front lines, advocating for immigrants’ rights.
Timoci Naulusala, a 12 year old climate change activist from Fiji.
a group of 21 plaintiffs (aged 9-20) who took the United States government to court for burning fossil fuels.
TAKE CONTROL OF CHANGE and TALK!
Discuss what’s happening in society with your friends and family, and explore the ways you can make change in your local community. It can feel intimidating to see people your age or younger sharing platforms with global leaders, but a contribution to your local community is also incredibly valuable and needed.
Want better education standards? - Write to your local MP to alert them to current problems and possible solutions. Want a healthier society? Plant a tree, and sign (or start!) petitions for better recycling facilities in your local area. Concerned a local charity is struggling for money? Arrange a fundraiser and ask people to make donations. Not sure how to write to your MP or if petitions are worth it? We’ve got you covered.
...about issues facing the UK by engaging with and following the groups working to make change. At WCWD we work hard to bring together the stats, facts and ways you can get involved - so keep an eye out for our Spotlight series our social media channels for insight into issues including (but not limited to) racism, gender based violence, refugees, climate change, cancer, food poverty and much more, as well as inspiring stories from groups working on the ground.
The more we know, the better we can do.
Here are some recommendations on how you can educate yourself on important issues:
Read, listen and watch diverse books, podcasts, and films on issues such as:
Gain Hard and Soft skills - it is extremely important to adapt to the constantly changing environment to ensure you’re growing. Try and advance yourself in both technical and soft skills:
Gaining hard skills (using computer software, speaking multiple languages, etc)
Soft skills (problem solving, teamwork, communication, open mindedness etc)
Volunteer - And finally, what better way to understand the issues on the ground than by volunteering with a charity challenging the issues you're passionate about?
Take a look at opportunities near you, and check out our actions page for more options. Remember if you can’t volunteer, you can always donate or even spread awareness about the cause and the charity.
Every small action adds up and can make real change. Whether you are considered a ‘youth’ or not, young people’s voices matter and deserve to be heard. If you have a young person in your life, empower them to take control of the issues they see around them and to speak out.
Come back again next week for more ideas about how you can get involved and make a difference. In the meantime, if you know of any initiatives in your community that you think we should promote get in touch.
More things you might like:
Breaking the Taboo | Spotlight On: Suicide
Subscribe to the What Can We Do? Newsletter
In order to see the latest updates, information and opportunities to help and support during coronavirus and beyond, sign up to the ‘What Can We Do?’ mailing list and receive weekly newsletters. Sign up below.