Youth For Change is a global network of youth activists working in partnership with organisations and governments to tackle gender-based violence and create positive change for girls, boys, young women and young men.
In celebration of International Youth Day 2017, Girls’ Globe had the chance to chat with the newest and youngest member of the Youth For Change UK team – Katrina – who’s 16 and lives in Scotland.
How did you first get involved in advocacy?
“I’m the Scottish Girl Guiding Delegate on the British Youth Council, which that means I have the chance to speak about policy and get involved in Girl Guiding’s campaigns. I saw an advert on Facebook about Youth For Change and I thought to myself,”this is WAY over my head“, but I just went for it because you never know!”
Are many other young people you know engaged in issues like gender equality and gender based violence?
“I think lots of young people are engaged in lots of issues, but I know that in my friendship group I’m the only one who is so heavily involved in advocacy. I think it can be quite daunting as a younger person – I’ve just done my first set of exams and I think for lots of people it seems a bit terrifying to do other things on top of school. It’s a shame because I think lots of young people do care about many different issues, they just don’t know what outlets are available.”
What advice would you give to young people who want to make change happen, but don’t know where to start?
“Start talking about it, whether it’s with friends or on social media or with parents or teachers. Start actually voicing your opinions. And keep your eyes open for opportunities, there are loads of things when you start looking. There’s lots you can do at a community level, too. There is always a network out there you just need to work out how to tap into that network.”
Young people are more politically engaged than ever before. Why do you think that is?
“I think there’s a growing realisation that young people are the ones being affected by decisions. An obvious example is the UK General Election, and the realisation that decisions are being made that are going to affect our generation because we’re going to have to grow up with the results. With social media young people are more aware of what’s out there and how things affect them so they’re more likely to try and make change from a younger age.”
And what holds young people back?
“There can be a stigma around listening to young people – the whole children should be seen and not heard thing – governments or decision makers don’t want to listen to young people because they think we’re not educated enough or experienced enough or don’t have enough of an opinion yet. When you get involved with something you can feel like you’re constantly hitting your head against a brick wall and that no one wants to speak to you, but you just have to push past that because when there’s a big enough force behind something you see that governments are FORCED to listen to young people. We’re seeing that more and more, political parties are forced to be more aware of how they are impacting young people’s lives.
What’s next for Youth For Change?
“We’re hoping to start focusing more on the idea of sexual consent. It’s so prevalent in the UK that young people find themselves in a situation where they are doing things they don’t feel comfortable with, and we think there aren’t enough support mechanisms in place. We’d love to conduct an outreach programme where we could talk to other young people face to face about consent so that they can feel confident in their own bodies and making their own decisions.”
And what’s next for you?
“Next year I’m going to be doing my Highers (school leaving exams), but I’d also like to start developing my personal skills. I’d like to get even more stuck into advocacy, into developing campaigns and strategies.
I tell my friends as a joke that I just want to fix everything. Actually, my general motto in life is that I want to take the world and all it’s problems and all it’s issues and then just fix them all. I just need to figure out exactly how. I guess I’m in the process of doing that and this is how I’m starting. I’m going to see how it goes…!