An Adult Supporter’s View of the Youth Rights Day

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.

Youth Rights Day – Panel Notes

Youth Rights Day Panel
The Generation We Have Been Waiting For
AERO Conference Presentation
June 24, 2021

Session Notes

Top row: Yumna Hussen, Kyrstin Dumont, Mahi Thakur
Bottom row: Zineb Mouhyi, Richard Fransham

Website with links to social media: www.youthrightsday.com
Email address: youthrightsday@gmail.com
Link to register for Youth Rights Day updates and to volunteer: https://youthrightsday.com/contact/

Youth Rights Day Conceptual Framework

  1. We are the generation we have been waiting for.” It is in essence not about youth, but rather about the kind of leadership we need to put the world on a better course.
  2. A meeting place: A reason youth activists and their adult supporters have not been more successful achieving their goals is that they have remained too disconnected. The Youth Rights Day is a call to unite and to create a grand show of solidarity that tells the world we are not fringe groups – we are the way of the future. It is conceived as a meeting place for people to come out of their silos, to get to know their allies and to discover how they can support each other.
  3. There is no downside. Imagine how to use the Youth Rights Day to add legitimacy to people on the fringes and how it creates a stage for them to acquire attention and support for their causes. Think in terms of working smarter, not harder.
  4. The rights of youth: The Youth Rights Day focuses on human rights, environmental rights, and the right to self-determination within the context of community. Education is at the heart of it all. Carol Black’s Schooling the World message is foundational: If you want to change a culture, you have to change how you educate its children. Abraham Lincoln expressed the same view saying: “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” Imagine if young activists could receive school credits while pursuing what is important to them, instead of being sidelined by what they see as irrelevant curriculum.
  5. A new world view of young people: The Youth Rights Day has the goal of changing the attitude that young people are “made to be seen and not heard”, that they are too inexperienced and irresponsible to be taken seriously. This is bring done by bringing young activists to the fore and flooding the world with images of the wellbeing young people radiate when they are not oppressed. Discriminating against young people on the basis of their age sows the seeds of all kinds of discrimination and ignores that without their input the world goes off course.
  6. Youth-led/adult-supported: The Youth Rights Day is to be youth-led/adult-supported. Defining what this means is a goal of this initiative. Hart’s Ladder of Participation helps to visualize what it involves.  Charles Orgbon III’s use of Hart’s Ladder in this article is worth consideration: https://blueskyfundersforum.org/connect/blog/how-philanthropy-can-support-youth-grown-environmental-solutions.

How to Participate

  1. Spread the word. Talk it up with everyone you know.
  2. Think in terms of Earth Day and neighbours reminding neighbours to turn off their lights. Think of neighbours asking neighbours, “What are you planning for Youth Rights Day? Would you like to get some people together?”
  3. Join and follow the Youth Rights Day social media. Register for updates. Post items on social media, create and share posters and articles to help people imagine the possibilities and the power of coming together.
  4. Volunteer! When you register for updates indicate that you can give some time to making the day a resounding success.
  5. Keep doing what you are doing, but take advantage of the Youth Rights Day to do it better. Remind yourself:  work smarter, not harder.

Youth Rights Day Panel

Following is a description of the panel session being hosted by Zineb Mouhyi at the 2021 AERO conference.

The Generation We Have Been Waiting For
Youth Rights Day Panel
AERO Conference
June 24, 2021

The Youth Rights Day is about much more than youth rights. It is inspired by youth saying, “We are the generation we have been waiting for.” It is ultimately about the leadership needed to put the world on a far better course.

A major reason why youth and their supporters have not made more progress getting major injustices addressed is that they have remained too disconnected. The Youth Rights Day is created to change this. By rallying for one

grand show of solidarity on November 20th, the day the United Nations celebrates its Convention on the Rights of the Child, a much higher level of public awareness and support for youth efforts can be achieved.

The Youth Rights Day is conceived as a meeting place, not an organization. It is creating a space for youth and advocating for social, environmental and learning justice. By bringing them together under one umbrella, they can better see how to build the alliances that will further their particular causes. Education is over-riding. As the documentary film Schooling the World conveys, if you want to change a culture in a single generation, you have to change how it educates its children. We need for young people to have learning environments that allow them to use their time learning about what matters to them, and respect their right to participate as equals in decisions that affect them.

There is still the general perception that young people are to be seen and not heard, or that they are too irresponsible and inexperienced to be given an equal say. The Youth Rights Day Movement will help to dispel this misconception by dramatically increasing the opportunities for the public to meet young people who they not only need not fear, but who they need to hear. 

This session will introduce participants to youth from four corners of the globe: India, the UK, Canada east, and the US west. They will tell their stories about how they got involved and the work they are doing. The session serves as one example of a possible Youth Rights Day event. Panels of local youth activists could be hosted by community associations to build awareness of how youth are valuable citizens when treated with respect.

After hearing from the panelist, specifics about the Youth Rights Day and how youth and their supporters can take advantage of it will be covered. A question period will end the session. To receive updates on the Youth Rights Day, please register at: https://youthrightsday.com/contact/.

Following are brief bios of the people who will be speaking at this session.

Kyrstin Dumont
Kyrstin is a passionate and caring young woman and proud band member of the Algonquins of Kitigan Zibi. She is an awardee for her dedication to the indigenous community, she has taken part in sacred walks to protect the water, spoken on Parliament Hill about climate justice and human rights, created cultural art tutorials during covid for indigenous youth to stay connected to their cultures as well as continuously raised money for the moose moratorium and low income families during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has worked with schools, organizations and churches such as OCDSB, CAS, the child welfare league, UNICEF Canada, the Kitchissippi church as well as the Woodroffe church and while she is currently completing her high school education at Urban Aboriginal she works as a strong role model for other students who have fallen through the cracks of mainstream colonial education systems. She is an advocate, an aspiring future social worker, and a mentor to her family and community alike.

Yumna Hussen

Yumna is a student advocate and campaigner, elected as the Member of the UK Youth Parliament for Birmingham and Chair of Birmingham Aspiring Youth Council, representing 200,000+ young people in the UK Youth Parliament. She is also a Bite Back Youth Leader, which is an organisation which aims to revolutionise the food system and place young people’s health first. An avid writer, public speaker and co-author to the fiction book ‘Struggles of War’, she is keen on using creative approaches to explore social justice issues. Currently, she is launching RESILIENCE – a youth-led organisation, with the mission of elevating key systems in humanity and in particular, envisioning the future of our education system. 

Zineb Mouhyi

Zineb is the co-founder of YouthxYouth, a global community of youth education activists and adults dedicated to the reimagination and transformation of education for collective liberation. She is also one of the co-founders of the Weaving Lab, an international NGO and network of weavers, i.e. social change-makers pioneering new approaches to collaboration and ecosystemic transformation. Prior to that, she was the Policy & Partnership Development officer at WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education), at the Qatar Foundation in Doha, where she mainly worked on education development, policy research and implementation, and on bringing together education stakeholders to collectively advocate for changes in education.

Mahi Thakur

I walked out of the conventional education system that was preparing millions of people for so called mainstream careers ultimately to fall into the never ending exploitative, consumerist culture. I realized that these careers just add up to the modern problems that we are facing instead of providing any solution to it. It was then, I began to question everything and the alarming need to reimagine education. I am deeply interested in indigenous knowledge practices and decolonising education. My search for alternative approaches to learning has led me to have conversations with educationalists around the globe. I am now an active member of Ecoversities Alliance. I am also one of the youth signatories of the initial letter launching the Youth Rights Day movement and I’m committed to uniting youth in their effort to put the world on a better course.

Richard Fransham

Richard is a supporter of youth. He co-founded Uniting for Children and Youth and The Ottawa Public Education Remake Initiative (OPERI). Along with members of Unschooling School, he organized the three-day Child Friendly Community Conference that started on November 20th, 2020. He is retired from teaching and has presented at previous AERO conferences.