Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Youth Empowerment: The Power of Asking ´Y´?

Historians William Strauss and Neil Howe propose that each generation has common characteristics that give it a specific character [1].  The generation of young people born from the 1980s to present, known as ´Gen Y´, has been described as "civic-minded" with a sense of global citizenship, catalyzed by the forces of globalization. Over the last three months I have been participating in International Citizen Service, a UK government funded programme which gives young people from Britain the opportunity to volunteer in international development as active global citizens. In my project, I have been volunteering with ChildFund International, developing an educational module and supporting local educators with programmes that empower young people to bring about positive change in their own lives and their communities. As a young ambassador for youth empowerment in the UK, I have witnessed similarities between my own passion for social change, and those of ´Gen Y´ that I am working with here in Bolivia. This experience has reinforced for me the importance of being a global ´Gen Y´ citizen; that once you feel that others are like you, then you want for others what you want for yourself – a fair, and just society.

In 2013, the UN created the ´My World´ survey, which aims to capture individuals’ voices, priorities and views, the results of which will be used to inform the new development agenda for the world.  The survey asks participants to select which six of sixteen possible issues they think would make the most difference to their lives. In the survey over 75% of young Bolivians identified ´a good education´ as their main priority [2]. This is explained to be partially due to the fact that a better education would enable young Bolivians to compete in the international market within the globalizing economy, in turn giving them the entrepreneurial experience necessary to inspire other young Bolivians to take control of their civil liberties. This demonstrates the importance Bolivians place on education as part of a progressive youth-led, “civic minded” society.

A prime example of this commitment towards education and entrepreneurship in a globally connected world, is the recent TEDxUCB conference, arranged by young  Bolivians in La Paz on the 31st July.  The conference aims to give communities the opportunity to stimulate dialogues on “ideas worth spreading”, through hosting inspiring speakers and broadcasting their discussions across the world through the internet.  The Bolivian conference was themed ´Entrepreneurs: New Ideas for a New World´. This shows that young Bolivians are not only actively passionate about using education as a platform for social change in their own society, but also have a voice as citizens across the globe.

When asking ´Y´ in Bolivia about social change, there is a definitive sense of local and global responsibility that equates to that of young communities around the world.  As a young person who has come to Bolivia to with a view to bringing about positive change in the communities I work with here, and later to apply my learning to bring about change in the UK, I feel a shared sense of social commitment, “civic mindedness” and global citizenship to the young Bolivians I have worked with and met. More than ever before I am reminded that, our context and opinions may differ, yet it is our shared goals and our global citizenship that enable us to make a difference in our inter-connected world.

Written by Ravi Gill
Edited by Sarah Cassidy

[1] William Strauss, Neil Howe (2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. New York, NY: Vintage. Pages 213–237.
[2] United Nations ´MyWorld´ Survey, http://www.myworld2015.org

[3] United Nations (2002). Progress on the Millenium Development Goals, Second Report. Page 14 

Ravi's article was submitted to represent International Service in Inspira Magazine, a magazine on International Development which is published in Bolivia

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