Why youth voices are crucial for social change
By Matthew Blanch, Emily Law and Sophie Paxinos; Youth Advisory Committee
Today’s youth have grown up in a globalised world. We go to school with peers of all different backgrounds. We hop on the internet and trade emojis with people from the other side of the planet. We have endless opportunities to learn about social inequality.
We have a distinctive and valuable perspective, and we’re motivated to make change happen.
So how can the community support young people to be more active with social justice issues?
Change that matter to us
Youth-led social activism is not a new phenomenon. However, the increased connectivity experienced by today’s youth allows previously marginalised voices to rally unprecedented numbers and instigate social movements rapidly.
Young people like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai are fantastic examples of how great societal change can occur when young voices are heard on issues they are traditionally excluded from.
In fact, the stakes are arguably higher for the youth facing these kinds of issues, like climate change and education, than they are for any other age group. So we must speak up!
And although these commanding voices aren’t new phenomena, nor are they widely accepted in society yet – as we have seen with Greta in recent weeks.
How can you support youth activism?
Young people face a unique challenge when trying to campaign for social change: on the one hand they are criticised for being apathetic or self-centred, but on the other their efforts to improve the world are often undermined by claims of inexperience or naivety.
What can you do to help?
Firstly, be willing to engage with young people who want to talk about societal issues. We often hear that it is ‘impolite’ to talk about politics, or religion, or ethics at a dinner table, but this can be one of our best chances to learn more about how the world works. It can help us to cultivate an interest in a topic and also help younger and older generations to understand each other.
Another way to encourage youth social participation is to value and facilitate the contributions of young people to discussions. Sometimes, it feels like some adults belittle us, so being an encouraging voice is critical.
Whether it’s initiatives at school, in workplaces or just interpersonally, you can help young people realise they have a right to take action on things they believe in.