Youth and International Development

SoundOut Student Voice Team in Seattle

After millennia of European domination, nations around the world are emerging in healthy, powerful ways. International development is slowly coming to focus on the whole planet, including young people.  Youth and international development are tied together, addressing a variety of issues including extreme poverty and hunger; universal education; gender equality and women’s empowerment; ending child mortality; improving maternal health; ending HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global commitment to human empowerment. Youth are partnering with adults to lead these movements today and towards the future.

When we’re talking about youth participation, we’re talking about challenging longstanding practices that hinder young people participating at all levels. So when we hear our leaders talking about young people getting involved, we actually would like to see them follow that through with concrete suggestions, such as a quote on all decision making boards for young people. — Jacque Koroi

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through International Development

Youth as Decision-Makers — Whether they’re focusing on economics, hunger or other issues, young decision-makers can be major contributors to international development through decision-making. Becoming active, involved and full members of boards and decision-making committees in international NGO and international specialized agencies can empower and engage young people in changing the world.

Youth as Movement Leaders — Working on their own or as partners with adults, young people can lead movements focused on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals or any international development issues that matter to them. Working across the Internet, using social media, texting or on the ground in local communities, youth can change the world as movement leaders.

Youth Media Makers — Learning about the issues that matter to them and taking action to inform others, children and youth can create and promote a variety of media, including print, online and video. Sharing messages and building consensus, youth media makers can create new approaches and foster new support for international development.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through International Development

Opportunities — Creating, building, sustaining or recreating opportunities for youth involvement in international development can be vital for engaging youth. Opportunities can be systemic, educational, cultural, social, religious, or otherwise.

Education — Working with adults as allies or on their own, children and youth can learn the essential knowledge they need to take action for international development. Whether they’re promoting NGOs becoming involved in their local communities and nations, or working for those NGOs to building youth involvement or youth activism, young people can change the world by learning about international development.

Inspiration — With so many traditional messages focusing on “act local, think global”, it’s important for young people to get inspired to take on international development. As integral leaders over the last twenty years, young people have taken action, changed policies, and helped millions of people around the world. Sharing these stories and building interest matters.

 

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Youth and Community Development

Check Your Perspective exercise by The Freechild Project

Working together with other members of their communities, including children, adults and elders, youth and community development offer ways youth can change the world few other activities can. Community development happens when people take action to solve common problems affecting the places they live, work and play everyday. Community members, neighborhood activities, elected officials, professionals and youth can all work together to build better communities for everyone affected. Increasingly, when foundations, government programs, and innovative community organizations want creative solutions to difficult funding issues, they turn to young people for solutions. Oftentimes, youth are connected to their communities in more authentic and unhindered ways than adults that can help communities by better understood.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often the real loser — in fees, and expenses, and waste of time. As a peace-maker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough. — Abraham Lincoln

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Community Development

Youth as Community Organizers — When governments won’t engage youth, community groups and nonprofits can step in to engage youth as community organizers. Through training and empowerment, they can develop unique, powerful campaigns that engage many people, including children, youth, adults, families and elders.

Youth and Government — Participating in regular and sustained government positions, roles and activities can allow youth community developers to change the world. Roles should be rull voting and frequent, and focus on engaging diverse young people.

Youth as Planners — Young people can participate as community planners in community development work. Using education and training, they can learn the skills and knowledge they need, and applying their knowledge they can guide their peers, younger people and adults, too.

 

The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide by Adam Fletcher
Order The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Community Development

Opportunities — Local governments, nonprofits and advocates should create substantive, sustainable opportunities for children and youth to contribute to community development. There should be regular, ongoing activities and visual, transparent outcomes.

Training — Training young people about community development can be engaging and empowering in many ways. Children and youth can learn what community is, how communities are built, where community development and planning fails, and what roles they can play throughout the processes.

Stories — Young people can become motivated and inspired to create change through community development with stories. The stories of their friends, families and peers are important, as can be stories from other youth around the world.

 


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  • Growing Up in Cities – Growing Up in Cities provides models of interdisciplinary, intersectoral collaboration for listening to the voices of young people and creating more responsive urban policies and practices.
  • Kids and Community– A website developed by city planners to encourage kids to learn about cities and get involved in changing them.
  • Children, Youth, and Environments Journal – CYE is an international, multidisciplinary network of researchers, policy makers and practitioners working to improve the living conditions of children and youth. CYE supports the sharing of knowledge and experience, while recognizing young people’s capacity for meaningful participation in the processes that shape their lives.
  • Project for Public Spaces – A nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people of all ages create the kinds of places that build communities. We achieve this through technical assistance, training, research and education – as well as programs in parks, plazas and central squares; transportation; public buildings; and architecture and public markets. Website includes examples, tip sheets, and more.
  • California Center Youth Voices – Improves youth awareness of and involvement in community planning and land-use decisions.

 

 

 

 

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Youth and Racism

Freechild Project youth protest in Seattle

Youth and racism are wound together, depending on each other to unravel the pain, hurt and despicable enduring nature of racism. Being “against racism” is to be against any system based on some kind of supremacy, including white supremacy, racial supremacy of any kind, tribal supremacy, class supremacy, even male and female chauvinism. Young people are taking power action against racism and making their communities more powerful, empowering places for all people to live in.

Washing ones hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. — Paulo Freire

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World focusing on Racism

Youth-Led Activism — When adults won’t partner with young people or when young people want to take immediate action without permission, they can lead their own community organizing projects and rallying their peers to create change, or take action on their own. Picketing, sit-ins, boycotts and social media action are just some of the ways youth-led activism can affect racism.

Service Learning — Studying the social effects of racism, young people are building communities through service learning. Programs focused on white privilege, empowering communities of color and more can teach students about racism in distinctly effective ways. When facilitated effectively, service learning encourages students to apply their learning throughout their lives.

Youth and Incarceration — Young people are challenging the school-to-prison pipeline, long-term incarceration, incarcerating youth with adults, and solitary confinement within prisons, all wrapped together with analysis focused on the disproportionate incarceration of people of color. Youth and incarceration shouldn’t be synonymous, and youth can change the world when they focus on ending the racism which makes this happen.

 

The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide by Adam Fletcher
Order The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Racism

Education — Learning about the history of racism isn’t enough. Young people need to understand their role in white privilege and racism, whether they’re people of color or white. Learning how to see privilege, dismantle white supremacy, overcome structural racism and fight against dominant cultural norms is essential, too.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Creating intentional relationships designed to foster trust, communication, mutual investment and meaningful involvement can effectively engage youth in changing the world focused on racism. Young people can transform communities and organizations through youth/adult partnerships, increasing effective action and building support along the way.

Opportunities — Young people need substantive opportunities to take action against racism. Schools, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations can create opportunities. Young people can create their own opportunities through youth-led community organizing and youth-led programs, too.

 

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Youth and National Service

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything." - Albert Einstein

Youth and national service go together like boats on the water. Given the right motivation and inspiration, young people are essential to building nations, empowering the disenfranchised, sustaining communities and enriching democracy. Involved in deliberate nationwide programs focused on serving the greater good and empowering individuals, national service can create connections beyond local borders and enhance pride and belonging. Whether serving locally, nationally or internationally, any peace-building activity might allow young people to change the world in a powerful ways.

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction. — John F. Kennedy

 

Ways Youth can Change the World focusing on National Service

Project-Based Learning — National service should be an action learning opportunity for young people, focused on learning practical skills and powerful knowledge while serving the greater good in the country. Acknowledging project-based learning within national service allows a lot of relevance and applicability. Children and youth can change the world while they serve their countries by reaching beyond their borders to strengthen their nations, too.

Community Youth Development — By taking empowered, appropriate action focused on building communities and changing the world, community youth development engages young people in positive action focused on social change. Using this approach in national service program can appropriately position young people as problem-solvers and leaders in the communities where they serve.

Youth as Activity Leaders — Whether they’re focused on education, the environment, public health and safety, unmet human needs or other areas, young people can lead national service projects. Moving beyond simply enacting plans made by others, children and youth can step into planning, design, building, facilitation and other key roles throughout national service.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on National Service

Training — Learning how to do the service they’re engaged in is important and obvious. Learning why they are involved in national service is more important. However, learning how to lead, facilitate, motivate and recruit others into national service is vital for youth to change the world, too, as they can step into these important roles and foster important change.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Being supported through healthy and supportive relationships can help everyone flourish. In national service, bridging intergenerational gaps by building youth/adult partnerships may be essential to success. Young people and adults can both initiate these relationships, effectively building community and securing support for themselves and others, too.

Opportunities — Young people need substantive opportunities to participate as the leaders, facilitators and implementors of national service activities. These should acknowledge the complexities in participants’ lives; be infused into the regular functions of communities; and constantly acknowledge their relationship to national health and well-being.

 

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Youth and Public Health

Seattle students in a Freechild workshop discuss issues with an adult ally

Public health is made of organized efforts around the world that aim at to prevent disease and promote health across our communities. Tied together through education, action, evaluation and advocacy, youth and public health are addressing a lot of issues, including HIV/AIDs, smoking, pregnancy prevention, and more.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito. — Source unknown

 

Ways Youth can Change the World focusing on Public Health

Youth as Teachers — Young people can be some of the best public health educators, whether teaching their parents, their siblings, other young people or adults throughout their communities. Engaging youth as teachers can quickly normalize activities, knowledge and attitudes that are different or new for their communities in ways adults cannot, and can reach people others can’t, either.

Social Media — Texting public health messages and sharing public health knowledge with their peers and other throughout social media can help youth be powerful communicators and recruiters. Social media can also help youth educators build community around their issues, roles and regions, too.

Youth-Led Activism — When adults won’t listen to youth voice or allow youth participation, young people can make their voices heard through activism. Whether they are organizing communities, leading sit-ins, advocating for policy change or building online movements, young people can be powerful activists for issues that matter to them.

 

The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!
The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Public Health

Education — Young people should know the basic, elemental parts of public health all of the time, no matter who they are, where they live or how much money their families and communities have. However, to change the world with public health, children and youth should learn critical thinking skills, build their knowledge base, and expand their abilities.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working with adults as partners is a sure way to change the world through public health. Young people can teach adults about issues that matter while receiving the support, encouragement and knowledge of adults.

Funding — Securing and sustaining funding is vital for youth-led public health action. Changing the world through active engagement in the issues that affect them most, children and youth deserve the fiscal support they need for programs, activities and outcomes that reflect the importance of public health throughout our lives and communities.

 

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Youth and Gender Equity

"I study to liberate, not to get into debate."

Gender equity is the fair distribution of respect, trust, communication, involvement and resources to people who identify as male, female or who are transgendered. It does not necessarily mean making the same activities, facilities and cultures available to males, females and transgendered people. Gender equity does mean that females and transgendered people experience a full range of choices that meet their needs, interests and experiences. That means some activities may be the same as those offered to males, while others may be altered, and some may be altogether different. Young people can change the world through gender equity by taking action towards equity while challenging and eliminating disadvantages people experience because of their gender. They can also examine and challenge practices and policies that may hinder the participation of people because they identify as females or transgendered.

“I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.” ― Charlotte Brontë

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Gender Equity

Youth-Led Classes — Youth can teach children, their peers and adults about gender equity. Through hands-on activities with real learning goals, youth facilitators can role model the most effective ways to reach learners, and share the most effective and empowering information along the way!

Policy Development — Working with policy-makers as allies, youth can create policies, rules, regulations and formal procedures in organizations, agencies and institutions in order to foster gender equity. Contributing to the study, critical analysis and rewriting of policies, youth can also evaluate their implementation and effectiveness.

Community Governance — Young people can participate in neighborhood associations, community groups, village / town / city government, county government and other local-level activities to ensure gender equity. Children and youth can also research issues that matter to them, present their findings and promote what they’ve learned, too.

 

Learn about adultism at https://freechild.org/adultism/
Learn about adultism.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Gender Equity

Training — Gender discrimination and gender bias is obvious to a lot of people when they are very young children. However, learning about the systemic and cultural bias against women and transgender people can require specific education and training. Young people may need these learning opportunities to move into action.

Opportunities — Adults can create substantive opportunities for children and youth to become involved in challenging gender bias and building gender equity. Actual activities and more can transform discrimination.

Technology — Staying connected across distances, identities and communities can be a challenge for youth advocating for gender equity. Using technology including social media and texting can allow young people to cross the distances on their terms.

 

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Youth and Politics

Youth Can Be the Leaders of Tomorrow - If We Procrastinate.

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 can Change the World through Politics

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.

Things Youth Need to Change the World through 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.

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Youth and the Environment

Freechild Project youth making a trail

Ecology is the spiritual, physical, and practical relationship we have to the earth. The Freechild Project has found that around the world young people are advocating for protection and working to restore damaged environments. These groups teach us that each person has a personal and social responsibility to the world we live in, to act as a steward and advocate for the earth. Youth and the environment are wholly interdependent upon each other, and adults can follow their lead.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ― Jane Goodall

 

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Curfews

Freechild Project youth protest in Seattle

 

Curfews compromise the ability of children and youth to fully realize their rights as citizens of this country and their responsibilities as members of families and communities.

Curfew laws do this by restricting the ability of young people to travel freely between and within borders, and by unjustly limiting the movements of people simply because of the arbitrary markers of age, rather than their personal capacity.

What these arbitrary markers do is label entire segments of the population as incapable simply because of their age. While many opponents of eliminating age limits insist that brain science justifies their discrimination, it’s important to remember that age barriers such as the right to vote, the right to choose whether to attend school, and the right to travel freely were started in Victorian times, long before any legitimate brain science was started.

Couching illegitimate discrimination in legitimate science is the best adultists can do. Brain science has continually demonstrated the increased capacity of the human brain to more than we recognize at younger ages. Let’s pay attention, acknowledge, and capitalize on that reality, and stop infantalizing children and youth.

While mainstream media and many government officials justify this infantalization of young people with brain science and testimonies of parents, teachers, and even youth themselves, these are almost always biased analyses based in adultist, ephebiphobic perspectives.

Without honest, open conversations throughout our society about the roles of young people and the effects of curfews and other discriminatory acts, we’re going to keep getting get what we’ve supposedly been getting for a long time: generations of apparently apathetic, seemingly disconnected citizenry who don’t vote, don’t volunteer, don’t rally, and don’t create the change our world so desperately needs.

 

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Corporal Punishment

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything." - Albert Einstein

 

  • Spanking
  • Slapping
  • Smacking
  • Pulling ears
  • Pinching
  • Shaking
  • Hitting with rulers, belts, wooden spoons, extension cords, slippers, hairbrushes, pins, sticks, whips, rubber hoses, flyswatters, wire hangers, stones, bats, canes, or paddles
  • Forcing a child to stand for a long time
  • Forcing a child to stay in an uncomfortable position
  • Forcing a child to stand motionless
  • Forcing a child to kneel on rice, corn, floor grates, pencils or stones
  • Forcing a child to retain body wastes
  • Forcing a child to perform strenuous exersize
  • Forcing a child to ingest soap, hot sauce, or lemon juice
All of these are examples of corporal punishment.
All corporal punishment is child abuse, and child abuse teaches students nothing. 19 states in the U.S. still allow corporal punishment in their schools, and this must stop now.

“Bullying is enough of a problem among students; the teachers shouldn’t be doing it, too. There’s nothing positive or productive about corporal punishment and it should be discouraged everywhere.” Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)

Anytime a young person is treated this way they are being abused. These forms of abuse are the cruelest, most unjust, and most ineffective treatment young people can receive. While including both, corporal punishment goes beyond adultism, beyond adultcentrism, and straight to child abuse.
The most basic right of any person today is the right to live in peace.
While that may sound simplistic or naive, violence is a daily reality for almost every young person in the world today. Physical violence—war, family abuse, bullying, and gang violence; mental abuse—parental abuse, teacher abuse, or verbal put-downs— and child neglect surround young people. These are all forms of violence. The institutions that are purportedly supposed to support our children and youth, places like schools, hospitals, and governments, abuse young people. In their homes young people face violence through popular media, like television shows, movies, pop music, and video games. And violence surrounds young people in many ways that we don’t see, seeping into everyone’s hearts and minds without us being aware of it: another bombing overseas, another vicious attack on public funding, another slander against youth in the news.
This abuse adds up. According to a United Nations study,

“Corporal punishment of adults is prohibited in well over half the world’s countries, yet only 15 of the 190-plus nations have prohibited all corporal punishment of children, including in the family.”

It’s a statistic like this that leaves little wonder in my mind about why young people appear “apathetic” and “disenchanted” with a world so intent on numbing them to pain, hatred, cynicism and violence.
Luckily, our North American eyes are beginning to fully comprehend the imperative any ethical person faces when dealing with the situation of young people and violence today. We are beginning to stand with young people to change the situations that they face, and the situations our world faces. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) boldly declares that,

“Young people must be meaningfully involved in promoting and strategizing action on violence against children… Children… need to be well informed about their rights, and fully involved in the life of the [community and] school…”

This call situates corporal punishment as a fully-authorized premise for social action in 198 countries around the world—minus the US and Somalia, who are the only non-signatory countries. Canada and Mexico have signed on. There is no other convention, consensus, or constitution in the world that is more widely accepted than the CRC. So the vast majority of global governments agree that corporal punishment is a significant premise for social change, and we agree that young people should help lead anti-abuse efforts.
 
I believe that corporal punishment is the root of all discrimination in society. Premised on the hatred of young people, on adultism, on the self- and cultural repression of childhood, corporal punishment is made worse through dozens of other factors, including socio-economic class, gender, race, ethnicity, and more… Corporal punishment is at the heart of all this.

Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act

In 2010, Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York, introduced a bill called “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” in the US House of Representatives. The bill would impose a ban on all public and private schools with students that receive federal services. Learn more about the bill, and support it. I do.
Stop beating kids.

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