“We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends”. –Mary McLeod Bethune
Written by Maricarmen Robles
Edited by Alexandra Bravo Schroth
The youth is a magnificent and powerful source of change. The world is filled with young men and women with great dreams and the strength to make them a reality.
In 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth that 12th of August should be declared International Youth Day (United Nations, 2020). This date is a perfect opportunity to celebrate young people’s lives and voices, highlight their initiatives and support their actions as activists worldwide.
Usually, young people are the first responders and have always been on the frontlines in times of disasters and in building social cohesion. When young people are involved, the solutions to local and global challenges are more holistic, practical, and resistant (United Nations, 2021).
The Covid-19 pandemic challenged us in multiple and different aspects worldwide; it represents a threat to public health and economic and social stability. It threatens millions’ long-term livelihoods and well-being (International Labour Organization, n.d). The response of youth in this context is a light in the darkness for the world; they are in the frontline as health workers, activists, social and community workers (UNFPA, 2020). The involvement of youth is so significant that last year, to show all their work to combat Covid-19, the hashtag #YouthAgainstCOVID19 was launched on social media.
However, the reality of youth is not equal worldwide, and young people have to face different obstacles. For instance, 20% of all youth in the developing world are not in education, training, or employment, 43% of homicides globally occur among youth, and young people were one of the most affected groups in employment due Covid-19 pandemic (Fleming, 2021). Furthermore, more than 65% of young people feel policy-makers rarely hear their voices or prioritize their opinions. Moreover, even though 65% of the population is considered part of the youth, only 6% of politicians are under 35 (USAID, 2021).
The World Economic Forum recommends a series of policy-driven initiatives and interventions to help youth employment; some include stimulating new employment and entrepreneurship, focusing on the most vulnerable young people, and getting them into work. These initiatives also promote training young people to fill any skills gaps that may have arisen due to disruptions during the pandemic and re-entry programs for those who lost their job (Fleming, 2021).
It is also vital that young people’s voices and their initiatives are heard and promoted. In that line, we created the Global Youth Advocate Network (GYAN) in 2021. GYAN is a global organization run by the youth to advocate for our peers and our interests. It is a space where youth can express their ideas and invite others to be agents of change in their societies, to make advocacy a lifestyle. To know more about the initiative, please visit GYAN’s web page.
International Labour Organization. (n.d). COVID-19 and the world of work. Retrieved on 29 of July 2021. https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/lang–en/index.htm.
Fleming, S. (2021, July 15). The pandemic has damaged youth employment: Here’s how we can help. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/07/pandemic-damaged-youth-employment/.
UNFPA. (2020, August 12). Los jóvenes lideran el camino en las soluciones a la covid-19. https://www.unfpa.org/es/press/los-j%C3%B3venes-lideran-el-camino-en-las-soluciones-la-covid-19#.
United Nations. (2020). International youth day. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/youth-day.
United Nations. (2021). Young people enrich institutions and politics at every level. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/desa/young-people-enrich-institutions-and-politics-every-level.
U.S. Agency for International Development. (2021, March 15). Youth impact. Retrieved on 29 of July 2021 https://www.usaid.gov/youthimpact.