Are there alternatives to youth participation?
I will start by answering, stating that there is no alternative for a society open to youth needs and interests without youth participation. They need to be involved and consulted. We are talking about real involvement, based on objectives and targets that can be achieved for and with the help of the youth community.
I grew up in the countryside, but I’ve spent my last six years in urban areas, changing different environments, from that of a little provincial town to the capital of Romania. In all these years I’ve been involved everywhere because I searched different opporunities for this, I felt that I could really help by trying to be an example of participation, by supporting initiatives, by organizing different events, by offering advice on specific issues, based on my lived experience as a teenager. Moreover, I have been consulted, so I had the possibility to express my position regarding different topics. Due to some important events, I strongly believe that the power of information can be used by youth to create changes.
Five pillars of youth participation
Youth participation is necessary because it represents, first of all, the future of the community and, secondly, its heart through the number of teenagers and through the activities that are developed every day by them. If I should resume what means youth participation, I would identify five pillars:
Taking each of them separately, I remark a common aspect: a sinergy based on some values that are letting the youth to be partner in decision-making process. I am reffering to this process, because I have been actively involved in the National High School Students’ Council, I have been a candidate for the decision forums of the university when I started it, I am watching carefully what is happening in the youth-related ares and I am seeing many youngsters getting involved or coming with expertise in important fields at the national and international level. Furthermore, they are not only involved in the local or national policy-making process, but also are promoting and sharing their knowledge and competences internationally. Let’s discuss each aspect:
I mentioned a number of words like “synergy”, “partnership”. Yes, young people are willing to discuss their views and come up with solutions for their needs and for the other active members of the community.
There is cooperation among us, cooperation with decision makers, when we are working, cooperation with governmental sector or with NGOs, we are actively involved in the transfer of expertise internationally. And by using “we”, I am reffering to youth.
Either we talk about involvement in supporting or promoting public policies, in initiating a campaign, in running projects, in opening the dialogue or an invitation to cooperation, the initiative is the mainstay. We need to find it everywhere. Also, we can add the business or the international cooperation fields in which young people are aware of the details.
I was raised in an environment in which I often encountered this word in different contexts. What did it mean? I am referring to our structural organization, to the organization of various associations, to the implementation of initiatives, in creating the framework for cooperation and to achieve goals that youth propose. At 15, I discoverd the the representative structure of students from the high school, a form of organization that represented both opportunity and development for me.
Why did most innovations were inspired by young people? Either we talk about student marches that changed mentalities and regimes, about leading companies worldwide or social networks that are building opportunities, about important research or action, there were young involved, the ones that broke barriers.
I always appreciated the involvement. There are numerous ways in which young people can make their voice heard. It is a sign both for now and for the future. Beyond the statistics, youth involvement is welcome, regardless of how it is done, from the exercise of voting rights, involvement in various associations, involvement in public consultation, debates, youth involvement in structures of political parties, in national and international projects.
A conclusion on youth participation?
There are five keywords that I highlighted above, about the role that we, the young people, have in creating that world we want. Communication helps us to understand our cultures, to overcome obstacles and turn them into opportunities. We are the promoters of development, we are those who understand that youth participation means the improvement of our environment. We come from different continents, from different countries and we understand us. We cooperate, we have initiative, we organize the world, we innovate and we are getting involved right now!