Vocal, passionate and switched on: why young people have a lot to say
Takyiwa Danso, aged 22, London
Today, 12th August, is International Youth Day – a day which has become very significant to me. As a young person, I believe that we must all learn to recognise the role youth can play within our communities and the impact we can make. It’s important that other people, particularly people in positions of power, recognise our contribution too.
In my opinion, the past approach to dealing with young people has often been misguided, resulting in our seniors conceptualising our generation as being uninterested and apathetic to current affairs. This is a grave misconception. Some policies that government bodies employ often do not benefit young people, or they are not communicated in a way that young audiences will understand. As a result, young people are frequently left feeling ignored in the political process.
With the increasing interconnectedness of the world and the speed at which information is readily available, young people have more power than ever before to reach those at the top. Policy makers can no longer ignore our valid and valuable voices which we use to amplify our collective ideas. They must not reduce young people to a tick box to fulfil demographic quotas but instead, they must invest real time and effort into involving youth and channelling their thoughts into the wider community to kick-start real change.
Volunteering in Kenya
This year’s youth day theme is ‘civic engagement’. If someone asked me a year ago what ‘civic engagement’ meant, I wouldn’t have known how to respond. However, since my time volunteering in Kenya with VSO, as part of International Citizen Service (ICS), which provides volunteering opportunities for 18-25 year olds, I have begun to understand the meaning behind this and its importance today.
ICS was not my first volunteering experience; however I found that working with a group of strangers in a new environment was more challenging and rewarding than any other. As young citizens from both Kenya and the UK, we were given a rare opportunity to trial our crazy yet creative ideas to tackle an issue. We were able to work directly with the community and ensure it was a collective effort. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we all had a quiet resolve to do more to make this world better. Even without realising, I was playing a key part in the functioning of my small ‘society’, which alongside others created a larger impact as a whole.
Over half of the world’s population is under 30. In the time of ‘peak youth’, we are at a crucial moment where the world is beginning to realise the significance of including young people in decision-making. I now know not only what civic engagement means, but that I am a part of it, and I’d like to help other young people realise the same too.
Speaking at Parliament
Recently, I was privileged enough to share my ICS experience at a reception in Parliament to a senior group of people including MPs. In an age where young people often struggle to get their voices heard and find an audience to truly listen to them, I was able to represent my generation in a positive light, dispelling the notions of youth being disengaged from the political process. As my friend and fellow ICS volunteer Halima Sayed says,
“Young people dare to dream and we need a support system who are willing to make that dream a reality. Older generations have the wisdom and experience, but young people are the wave to carry that wisdom, learn from previous mistakes and make way for a new horizon of change.???