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International Youth Day: Support Youth Voices

Friday, August 12, 2022

Every year, on August 12, the world celebrates International Youth Day. This day was declared by the United Nations (UN) in 1999 and, each year, a different theme is chosen to address and create awareness around the challenges youth face globally.  

This year’s theme is Intergenerational Solidarity which addresses the barrier of ageism in advancing social, economic, environmental, and political change.  Ageism can be a barrier because it can impact the ways we think, feel and act towards people depending on their age. This can affect the working relationships between generations as people tend to take youth less seriously or question their experiences, skills, or ability to foster change.  When these perceptions occur it can be difficult for intergenerational teams to work together which is why, this year, the UN is asking all generations to work together to better understand one another in order to achieve prosperity while protecting the planet. 

The term “youth” has various definitions in terms of what age range falls under this category, what is most widely agreed on is that those between the ages of 10 and 29 are considered youth.  According to Statistics Canada this accounts for 24% of the population. When looking at the definition of age in a broader global context, youth make up nearly half of the people on the planet, and this number is expected to rise to 57% by 2030. As the population of youth grows it is important to consider the ways their needs overlap with those of other generations. So, what are the major concerns youth have for their future? 

According to the Government of Canada’s research to develop a youth policy, younger people are most concerned with education and employment opportunities, physical and mental health, and the environment. In addition, youth were also concerned about inclusion, diversity and the impacts of the intersection of people’s identities. A consistent theme was that youth believed people should have the opportunity to reach their full potential without facing systemic barriers.  

So much of the way youth see the future has been influenced by past generations' attitudes towards equity, diversity, and inclusion. So how can we better support one another to change our challenges from “youth issues” to “community issues”? 

Here are some ways we can empower youth to take their place in the world and represent the generations that are already so wise when it comes to technology and fast-paced changes: 

 

Learn from youth 

Many conflicts between generations occur because adults and older people have different lived experiences than youth, so their perspective and knowledge about the world might be different than those of younger people.  

This is no surprise as the world is constantly changing. Whether technologies, language, social interaction or forms of inclusion, generations continuously adapt to their generational challenges by using tools and resources available at their time.  

Just as we expect youth to ask adults for support or information. Older adults should ask youth for their teachings on the changes happening on a daily basis. This can assist both generations with feeling more connected to one another and to better understand each other's world.  

In addition, by asking youth to teach you, it can show that you value their experience, expertise, or skills. This can help to build confidence and leadership in youth while building positive relationships with those from different generations. 

  

Be open to listening 

You understand that generations are different, but do you wonder how you can help youth face social issues? Simple. Actively listen to what they have to say!  

This is the only way you will also be able to understand the challenges and knowledge gaps that still exist in the development of your child, nephew, student, coworker or mentee. Listening to others is always a very effective way of creating rapport and making others comfortable with sharing their thoughts and taking action towards the change they want to see in the world.  

 

Support youth voices or advocate for youth 

Remember that knowledge is built over a lifetime and that one cannot know a topic without being introduced to it from different points of view.  

One way to build community and support amongst generations is to support youth in developing skills such as leadership, healthy decision making, advocacy, and mentorship. At the YWCA we are always looking for volunteers to help youth participants discover who they are while making them feel heard.  

  • YWCA Guide to High School: Support Grade 7 students in the transition to high school by facilitating discussions, sharing your experiences, and listening to youth's concerns when it comes to healthy living, dealing with stress, time management, mindsets, friendships, peer pressure, bullying, power dynamics, and identity. Sign up to volunteer this Fall here.

  • YWCA Mentorship: Connects professionals from different industries to youth self-identified women from grades 11-12. The program aims to provide mentees with opportunities to explore their careers, improve leadership skills and gain life experience to transition to adult life.

 

Resources

United Nations - Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages

Statistics Canada - Population estimates on July 1st, by age and sex

Statistics Canada -Building a Youth Policy for Canada - What We Heard report