Young people today know that democracy is more than a form of government. It is more than an individual attitude, a group process, or a way to educate people. It is all that, as well as the thread that ties together individuals, groups, and society through our thoughts, words, and actions. Democracy is a way of life.
At home, throughout communities, in schools and across society youth are working on their own, with their peers, and along with their entire community to enact, react, transform and sustain democracy. Fighting against the negative perceptions of adults and adultism, youth are accomplishing astonishing things.
How Youth Engagement in Democracy Happens
Education—Youth are teaching their peers, their younger siblings, their parents and neighbors, and their communities about democracy in all of its forms. They are holding teach-ins, facilitating trainings, creating websites and building the knowledge of everyone to know, appreciate, enliven and enact democracy everywhere, all of the time.
Activism—Advocating for democracy action, youth are protesting for social change, calling for increased transparency and practical outcomes from government and public society. Working online, in-person and with or without adults, youth are forming campaigns, enacting boycotts, and doing a lot to build democracy everyday.
Organizing—Youth are organizing groups, clubs, alliances and associations to call for action, create difference and promote democracy. Working together, young people are forming communities for justice, peace, action and outcomes to support engaging every person in every community all of the time in order to transform democracy today.
Needs for Youth Engagement in Democracy
Education—Every young person needs opportunities to learn about democracy in action. Reflecting their own identities, communities, knowledge and ideas, this action should be oriented towards building democracy by learning about democracy, and learning about democracy by building democracy.
Opportunities—The energy, knowledge and opinions of all youth are valid and can be meaningfully engaged in democratic action throughout communities. There needs to be more actions and opportunities to do this though, including within organizations, across identities, through education, and beyond immediate situations.
Power—In democracy, power comes from the people. However, worldwide youth have been denied the power they need to change their own lives and change the world. Young people need practical, positive power to engage, transform and make real the possibilities of democracy today and into the future.
Organizations Supporting Youth Engagement in Democracy
- African Youth Union for Democracy—A pan-African youth organization working in the field of Peace, conflict resolution, African integration. It brings together young leaders from the Ivory Coast, Mali, Congo Brazzaville, the Republic of Guinea, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.
- Asian Youth for Civic Engagement—A national student-led organization dedicated to uplifting the voices of AAPI youth. Our mission is to increase political engagement and inspire activism engaging, informing, and activating Asian American youth. Ultimately, our goal is to prepare Asian American high school students to remain politically active as they enter adulthood.
- Black Youth Vote! (BYV!)—The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s Black Youth Vote! Empowerment Program has successfully engaged and trained a new generation of civic leaders and political activists. Through BYV!, students, community advocates and young professionals have gained essential tools that enable them to lead their communities to participate fully in the democratic process, focused on attaining greater social and economic justice in the Black Community.
- Children’s Voice Association—We support youth & children’s right to be heard and their inclusiveness in society in a broader sense. We aim to help youth & children to cure and grow their belief in democratic values and abilities to make a positive impact.
- Erasmus+—Supports youth-driven local, national and transnational participation projects run by informal groups of young people and/or youth organisations encouraging youth participation in Europe’s democratic life.
- Mikva Challenge—Mikva seeks to develop youth to be empowered, informed, and active citizens who will promote a just and equitable society. Mikva Challenge is envisioning a stronger, inclusive democracy that values youth voice.
- Street Law, Inc.—A nonprofit organization dedicated to providing practical, participatory education about law, democracy, and human rights. Through its philosophy and programs, young people are empowered to transform democratic ideals into citizen action. https://civiced.org
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