PAPER: How do young activists fight for the right to health in Congo, the Philippines and Palestine?
Research shows global election turnout is lowest among young people aged 18 to 25. On the other hand, we do see that some of the most powerful movements of our time owe their dynamic to young people. The worldwide Occupy movements and young protesters during the Arab Spring are just a few examples. How should we understand this? Are young people interested in politics or is all of this of no concern at all to the average 18 to 25 year old?
Young people are facing a world full of challenges. However, we observe a problematic lack of attention from policy-makers for young people in the Congolese, Palestinian and Philippine societies. Young people are barely represented in policy institutions, despite often good intentions. By consequence, they feel left out and get frustrated by initiatives promising true involvement, but ignore them when decisions are being made.
This contrasts starkly with initiatives at grassroots level that do actively involve young people. Participation gives hope. This is much needed, as big challenges will not resolve themselves. To get structural change, a strong movement is needed where young people play an active role stretching beyond mere symbolism.
What can a youth movement look like?
In this paper, we put an ear to the youth organizations of our partners in Congo, the Philippines and Palestine. It is based on several interviews and testimonies.
Billy of Étoile Du Sud tells you about the importance of being present in the Congolese popular neighborhoods. Samy of the Union of Health Work Committees explains us which impact the Israeli occupation has on Palestinian youngsters, and how they train to become youth leaders themselves. And our colleague Andrew from the Philippines describes what the mobilization of Gabriela Youth realized for the victims of the typhoon Haiyan:
“Any social movement that does not involve young people will find it very hard to survive. Youth adds vitality and intensity to a progressive organization’s ideals. Young people are the ones developing new strategies to mobilize the population, through new communication technologies for example. Historically, young people have always been in the front line in the fight for social change. They are most prepared to serve the population and to challenge the status quo. They have the desire and the abilities to change things. They just need to realize that organizing themselves is the only way to bring about effective change.”