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Working with Youth: “Let’s Learn as Much From Them as We Expect Them to Learn from Us”

A person wearing a suit holds a folder with the united nations logo on it under their arm.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) is the principal intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. This year, when the commission met for its annual two-week session in New York, grantees of the Canadian Women’s Foundation were there to represent their communities and bring their perspective to the table. Vineeta Prasad was a part of that delegation.

This was my first time attending UNCSW. There were so many events to attend, but being a youth worker, I wanted to attend events that focused on youth.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. At most, I assumed I’d be listening to discussions led by adults on behalf of the youth they work with – but after attending a few events on the first day though, I realized that this was far from the truth.

It was extremely inspiring and heartwarming to see how much youth involvement there was during the forum. For me, the best part about UNCSW was that these youth seemed to be your ‘everyday’ kids, facing challenges that many around the world experience.

Speaking up

It was empowering to see how many youth valued advocacy and were willing to share their stories not only for themselves, but also for an entire population whose voices are sometimes silenced.

They were brave enough to speak in front of an international audience to bring awareness to important issues that are often forgotten when we don’t invite young people to the table.

I appreciated watching them speak to their own lived experiences, instead of being spoken for by someone else.

Here are a few things that the young people had to say:

• They spoke up about inspiring others, and about the fight to be heard
• They talked about supporting and empowering other youth to continue their education and pursue their dreams while facing intense obstacles in their own journey
• They discussed their experiences in care, and shared potential policy changes and recommendations

A generation of activists

Many adults are quick to judge the youth of this generation by claiming that they are lazy, unmotivated, or have it way easier than previous generations. I hope by sharing the events of this week, I can help debunk these misconceptions. In my experience, this generation is deeply engaged in advocacy – and that was especially clear at UNCSW.

This generation is strong, powerful, extremely socially aware, and motivated to make changes for this world and the people in it. Even though we are currently experiencing many challenges around the world, , witnessing youth take the time to fight for global change makes me hopeful for a better future. I see the potential for positive change, that includes living in a world where equal opportunity for the highest quality of living is not only embedded in our policies, but is a reality that is experienced in everyone’s lives.

When I first started working with youth, my initial motivator was to be a positive impact on a young person’s life. It didn’t take me long to realize that the youth I interact with have also made a profound impact on my life. I encourage everyone who interacts with young people to take the time out to listen to their experiences and ideas instead of dismissing them because of their age. The possibilities are endless when we give ourselves the opportunity to learn as much from them as we expect them to learn from us.

Creating positive change

If there is one thing I can take away from the youth of this forum it would be: We all have a voice and something to say that is worth sharing with the world. So don’t let your challenges scare you and make you feel small. Instead, use your experiences to radiate positive change.

Learn More:

Canadian Delegates Discuss their #FeministVision at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women
Canadian Delegates Speak Up
On International Women’s Day, Let’s Remove These Six Barriers to Women’s Leadership

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