“The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm, and courage of the young people.”
– Kailash Satyarthi
Young people aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow – they’re making huge changes to the world around them, right now. Whether it’s through social media or ‘hashtag’ activism, writing online or in their paper about a cause, or taking part in a protest, there are many ways that young people can ‘be the change’ and make a difference to the world.
The world has long associated youth with risk-taking and recklessness. They have been lumped into the created and accepted stereotypes of an inherently bad generation – troubled and troublesome with the news awash with negative portrayal.
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” Young people are neither problems to be solved nor merely just part of the solution: as change makers, they can influence outcomes and achieve real change! All we have to do is encourage and mentor them, then give them the space to do it – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Right now, 1.8 Billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 are studying, working and finding their purpose. They are the largest youth population the world has ever seen, and they are growing up at a time when the world is at a critical crossroad. Young people have able to contribute to the global agenda to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030, female genital mutilation being a major sexual violence ongoing campaign led by young people.
Many of the girls who survive female genital mutilation will grow up to face lifelong health issues such as severe bleeding and problems urinating, cysts, infections, as well as future complications in childbirth. In Nigeria Nearly 20 million women and girls in Nigeria have undergone FGM. This proves the fact that the practice is deeply rooted in customs and traditions. But, youths through their rigorous advocacy campaign, community based advocacies, engagements with religious leaders, traditional rulers, community leaders, women organisations, policy makers and social media engagements have galvanised a movement that has resulted to a paradigm shift in the practise.
And of course youth led organisations have owned the campaign in Nigeria. Giving an example with the Youth Network for Community and Sustainable Development (YNCSD). They are the leading advocacy group of all youth bodies working to end all forms of female genital mutilation in Nigeria, the Network against considers itself as a movement catalysing social change by engaging young people and amplifying their voices to speak for the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation through targeted advocacy to key players, capacity building and development, communications and media engagements, partnerships and program implementation. Through the work they do, they have been able to see communities owning the campaign and publicly declaring abandonment to the practice.
One thing that we have always asked for is that ending FGM/C should move beyond conference rooms and Government making international commitments that may not be kept, more work has to be done to translate that work to into action at the community levels. The political will is a welcome development but young people are the “wheel” for the “will”. Now more than ever, we must effectively harness the power of youth to end Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in one generation!
Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”