Following are notes I have put together to share with people who may wish to support the youth-led Youth Rights Day initiative. It is a community-by-community undertaking that each person is encouraged to support in their own way.
by Richard Fransham
The Change to make Change Happen
Youth Rights Day – November 20th
Youth Rights Day is held on November 20th, the day the United Nations has established as World Children’s Day to celebrate its Convention on the Rights of the Child, and its Child Friendly Cities Initiative. The UN defines a child as under the age of 18, but Youth Rights Day includes everyone who defines themselves as youth. Some may be as old as 40 and see themselves more as adult youth supporting younger people. Youth Rights Day is to be a festival of events bringing recognition to all the inspiring work and activities of youth and those dedicated to supporting young people in their efforts to flourish, and to create the world in which they wish to live. It includes their involvement in social, environmental and learning justice as well as their displays of appreciation for what is good in life
The Purpose of the Day
The main purpose of the day is to dispel the view that young people are too irresponsible and inexperienced to be taken seriously. It is founded on the belief that people who feel respected and who feel good about themselves do not knowingly hurt others. Equality is at the heart of the matter. Age discrimination cultivates feelings of inferiority and breeds other forms of discrimination. This quote attributed to Queensland Aboriginal activists in 1970 speaks to the essence of equality:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Roger Hart’s Ladder of Participation, depicted in Charles Orgbon III’s article titled How Philanthropy Can Support Youth Grown Environmental Solutions, is helpful in understanding the kinds of relationships that exist between adults and young people. It provides an objective and what to avoid.
Aiming for the Tipping Point
The Youth Rights Day offers an aid for publicizing all the good work being done by youth and others striving to secure a promising future for all. It presents the opportunity for us to unite in a grand show of solidarity that gains the attention of people around the world who do not even know that we exist. It can be used immediately to segue into talking about our specific efforts and organizations. As we approach November 20th, it can be used to extend an invitation to consider specific endeavours. For example, supporters of Unschooling School might say to neighbours, “For Youth Rights Day, would you visit our website and consider taking our crash course on how to make public education more respectful of students?”
In the meantime, we need to talk it up, to build it into our conversations so that people know what it is when we extend these invitations. It also provides a way to convey that we are not lone voices or members of fringe groups desperately trying to be noticed, but rather part of a movement nearing its tipping point where we becomes visible to the masses and impossible to ignore. Together, we can accelerate the movement and reach that tipping point sooner rather than later to benefit today’s young people who are suffering under conditions that prevent them from flourishing.
Act Local – Go Global
Change needs to be accomplished community-by-community. Imagine the impact of a thousand voices concentrated in one locality as opposed to a thousand scattered throughout the world. It is the local efforts that will make the difference and so we need leaders in as many communities as possible emphasizing how it takes a village to raise a child.
Now imagine a thousand leaders in a thousand communities and how together they can make change happen. These leaders already exist. By working smarter, not harder, we can strengthen our hand. One example is change agents contemplating running to be school board trustees. They could add to their base by rallying people behind the Youth Rights Day. Through it they can gain an understanding of their prospective constituents, how to meet them where they are at, and next steps in evolving towards learning environments that meet the needs of all.
Now Is the Time to Act
We need people to assume leadership roles in making Youth Rights Day known in their communities. Using the above examples to spark one’s imagination, ideas will emerge about how to take advantage of the Day to further the goals of local actions already underway.
The first step for people willing to take a lead is to speak to a small number of local contacts who they think will listen. The goal is to build a small team of people who inspire and support each other. A cohesive team is essential and doing something positive together can build lasting friendships. This should be kept front of mind. Doing for others needs to include doing for self. As much as possible, creating change needs to be fun as well as challenging.
The Youth Rights Day is like Earth Day
The Youth Rights Day is not some centrally controlled organization with memberships and a board of directors. It is a happening. It is caring people wanting to bring attention to our treatment of young people and how proper treatment of them positively impacts the global community. Each community is different. Each country has its own politics. Languages, religions and cultures come into play. There is no recipe to follow. Feeling for how young people feel and removing barriers to them truly getting to know themselves within their cultures are guiding principles. With this in mind, local leaders will develop their websites, posters, articles and social media messages in the languages and from the perspectives of the people they wish to serve.