International Youth Day: Why Youth?

12th August 2015

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Why Youth?

Young people will change the world. Today’s generation of young people aged 15-24 is the largest ever at 1.2bn people. Just under 90% of the world’s population of 10-24 year olds live in developing countries. These numbers indicate the vast potential of youth. Yet in most societies they remain an untapped asset. They are normally the group most affected by extreme poverty, lack of employment and poor health. All too often they are also those with the fewest opportunities to contribute to the decision making processes that could change this.

Examples from recent history show how the societal exclusion of young people can have major consequences. In some countries, it has contributed to the radicalisation of young people and in Hong Kong this year, it was the student movement that led protests about the lack of democratic participation and then occupied the city centre.  Equally, if the seeds of discontent are sown amongst the youth of today, then it will have a negative impact on the generations that follow.

At Raleigh, we know how young people can be a highly effective vehicle for positive change in communities around the globe. We have witnessed it first-hand. When young people come into communities from outside, they bring with them different perspectives. If young people in the local area are in any way unrepresented or disenfranchised, then working alongside others in their demographic as they take ownership of and lead projects can encourage them to realise that they too are capable of achieving similar things.  Youth can also be an effective bridge when delivering new concepts and inspire communities to being open to positive change. The fact that they do not arrive as “experts” means that they are very unlikely to be regarded as a threat or as patronising. Communities then have the space to experiment and learn.

Young people are not only leaders and active global citizens of tomorrow. They are leaders for today. For these reasons, it is vital that we listen to and take into account their views and ideas – they are creative, open to change, energetic and resourceful. When we help young people to harness their potential – to have a voice and to lead – the impact is huge and can result in benefits for all. By empowering them, we begin to lay the foundations for a more inclusive and equitable future. As today is International Youth Day, there is no better time to start.

Some of our volunteers gave us their opinions on why young people should be heard. Here’s what they had to say:


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