Around the world there is a growing interest in youth and politics. Some political groups are changing to respond to the growing number of young people who want to affect the political system. Political ideologies appealing to youth that were once considered “fringe” beliefs are becoming mainstreamed, and more young people are associating themselves with non-popular political parties.
More young people than ever before are actually becoming engaged in local community campaigns and other political activities. Youth can change the world through politics by becoming actively, meaningfully and substantially involved throughout political parties and beyond.
Ways Youth Engagement in Politics Happens
Youth Mainstreaming — Advocating for youth mainstreaming can allow young people to change the world by creating new awareness, opportunities, policies, systems and cultures that foster youth engagement. In political parties, youth mainstreaming could allow for children and youth to affect democratic representation even in parties that would deny them the right to vote or otherwise become engaged.
Running for Office — Whatever age they are, young people can run for office anywhere in the world as an act of protest; to make a stand; or to draw attention. Building momentum for single candidates requires they remain committed to the causes that get them elected; pushing a political party or platform requires staunch champions for youth in politics.
Youth as Voters — Fighting for youth suffrage and demanding youth rights is a platform for youth voters. Another avenue for youth as voters is a protest vote. Going to a voting place and casting a blank ballot can show youth dissatisfaction with the current political system. Youth as voters can also vote for a youth candidate who may be foreign to the political system, but young and capable of sharing youth voice.
Needs for Youth Engagement in Politics
Education — In order to become engaged in politics in the most effective ways, young people can learn about political systems, political actions, political issues and other realities within and around the political system. They can also conduct action learning oriented activities that allow them to gain credit for their involvement.
Training — Training young people to change the world through politics means teaching them the skills they need to become involved. These include communication, problem-solving, change management and conflict resolution skills. It also means participating in knowledge-sharing activities designed to build their capacity for powerful action.
Inspiration — After 12, 14, 17 or 21 years of being told their voices don’t matter in politics, young people may need inspiration to become engaged. Never in history have children and youth been seen or treated as serious political actors; given the opportunity, they will be. Inspiration from stories, parables, biographies and other sources can help prepare and sustain youth in politics.
You Might Like…
- “Young People, Political Participation and Decision-Making” by United Nations Youth Division
- Youth & Participatory Politics Research Network
- “Young People and Political Engagement” by the Pew Research Center
- “Young people in politics: A multi-continental survey” by Marta Lagos and Richard Rose for the International IDEA Archive
Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth involvement in politics in your community or organization, contact us.