August 12 is the United Nations’ annual International Youth Day which serves as a reminder on the importance of youth participation in civic society.
Young people around the world are often relegated to the sidelines and excluded from having a say in decisions that will affect them. Ultimately, the lack of youth participation in important decisions is detrimental to all – regardless of age.
In Nagaland, as is across the world, young people are facing an uncertain future, especially in an environment which has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The job market has taken a hit and the return of those who were working in other parts of the country has compounded the already bleak unemployment scenario in the State.
When young people can create change and make their voices heard, they help build a better world. They occupy a myriad of sectors crucial to make the world a better place; engaged in building startups, creating technology, adding to the arts, servicing basic needs, advocating for greater justice and equality – and making a difference in the lives of millions.
Nagaland has quite a few crucial and difficult decisions to make in the near future. COVID-19 has forced us to re-look at the relationships which determine the welfare State model, and underneath the realities of the pandemic still remains the uncertainty regarding Nagaland’s political future.
While rhetorical emphasis has always been put on the importance of empowering the youth, more often than not, the voices are overwhelmingly urban, educated and often privileged young people. This eventually leads to something that is not truly representative of the broader youth community.
So how can young people be better included in decision-making processes around the world? First, governments and organisations need to reach out to young people on the margins of society, who do not necessarily enjoy the privileges of high-quality education and access to networks. There needs to be a strategy which welcomes true diversity among youth participants – whether socio-economic, cultural or geographic. Only then will there be an involved constructive dialogue.
Only through large-scale inclusive participation, followed by concrete proposals for decision-makers, can the voices of young people become truly representative of their generation. If young people do not participate in civic society and public policy debates from the beginning, this will affect their ability to become responsible leaders in the years to come.
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