Reflecting on the Last Decade: Betting on the Youth


By Dr Edward Greene

This is being written on New Year’s  Day 2020 when so many resolutions abound. As we reflected on the past Decade and in particular on the tenor and themes of our blogs during 2019, it became clear that activism for change was stimulated and dominated by the Youth across the regions of the World.

We could only reference a few among  the multitude that have had or could have a lasting impact. Their common denominators ranged from the fight for equality and social justice; demands to reduce poverty and violence, standing up against corrupt leadership; to articulating their active role in decision making, the need for greater civic participation and increasing access to health, sexual and reproductive rights,  and educational facilities.

Indeed, the sum total of most of the activism inspired by youth leadership covers the 17 Susutainable Development Goals (SDGs) on which hinge major targets of our universal resolutions: peace, security, happiness, and success. These are all targets that would make the World a better place in which to live.

Among a sample of youth activism, I reflect on four.

  • The Arab Spring in 2010 highlighted how social  media helped youth organize an unprecedented revolution that started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and other Middle East Countries.  Sparked by the death of a young Tunisian Street Vendor who set himself on fire after police confiscated his cart.
  • In 2012, Youth of the Standing Rock Indian reservation, led by Iron Michaela Shell- Dominquez, protested against the Dakota Access Pipeline in the USA. It was a protest of youth tired of thinking that they don’t have a future: “it’s one thing that you take away our land – now you’re going to come and build a pipeline and destroy our water.”
  • On February 14, 2018, one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history took place at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when a former student opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on the school campus, killing 17 people. Student survivors from Parkland immediately took action, becoming well-known activists with a clear message: #NeverAgain. They wanted gun reform now.
  • The transformative voices of generation Z or centennials (GenZ ), born between 1996 and 2010 are referred to in the GOFAD Blog (10/24/2019) Voices for Rebranding and Transforming Youth Leadership. They represent a global  movement led by Malala Yousafzai, Co-Founder of the Malala Fund, and Aya Mouallem, Women Deliver Young Leaders. Gen Zs advocate for bringing  knowledge and passion and are eager to see social change now. They admit to a challenge to get decision-makers to take them seriously and to directly engage young people in the policies and programs that affect their lives. They have  messages to world leaders on the power of meaningful youth engagement. They have examples and anecdotes that demonstrate this power. Their voices for rebranding and transforming youth leadership resonate in 18-year-old Natasha Mwansa from Zambia.

Resolutions are not enough: We need Action

Reflecting on these illustrations of Youth Activism, it is important to note that the Arab Springs despite the hope it brought for democracy, has witnessed a reversal  toward even greater tyranny and violence in the Middle East.

President Donald Trump has reversed the gains from the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest and the hopes of the Parkland ‘March for our lives’ has yet to yield substantive gun reform in the USA. Even the robust Gen Z movement admits to being ignored.

However, by chance I came across an inspirational book by Marley Dias, a teenage wonder who started the #1000blackgirl books. Her mission for racial harmony is a  campaign to inspire kids to make the world a better place and make their dreams come true. I have only read Marley Gets it Done and So can You, one of  four books she has written. It is inspirational, creative, daring  and fills the gap between hope and action. We plan to explore her other books and make them the subject of a review.

Given that GOFAD has spent several blogs illustrating  the role of youth and Climate action, there is no other commentary that fully illustrates the title of this blog than the TED Talk by the 2019 Times Person of  the Year, 16 year old Greta Thunberg, given one year ago.

She tells why meaningful New Year’s resolutions must transcend hope with action. School strike for climate – save the world by changing the rules.

With every good wish for a New Year of bountiful happiness and success.

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