The following Manifesto was produced on May 17, 2023, at the Global YEO Youth Pre-Summit in collaboration with young leaders with facilitation by the YEO 2030 Initiative team at Making Cents International and the Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN) team utilizing their Equity and Structural Justice Framework.
As young people, we experience equity in our communities when those in power intentionally create safe spaces that reinforce and validate the importance of our voice and experience. When this occurs, we, as young people, are encouraged to use our voices and can enact change. We feel understood and listened to when we have the power and ability to effect change; that choice is part of equity. Thus, we see a clear need for advocacy to raise awareness around equity and its importance. However, even when equal opportunity exists, it does not always translate to belonging. We acknowledge and recognize that people have different experiences, and that language can often be a barrier to equal opportunities, access does not equate to equality. Breaking structural barriers is also important for systems change, social and cultural norms, dignified access to equal opportunities.
Young people can contribute to an equitable world that minimizes inequity and injustice. While youth are said to be included in the participation, we are often sidelined and not included in decision making. We do not feel like our words are heard, and older generations do not take our perspectives seriously. It is imperative that we have the platform to advocate for ourselves and each other to create a more equitable space for all by learning from each other and building our collective capacity as young leaders to identify inequity and injustice and speak out against it. Specifically, we seek to influence our communities to envision a world with more young people in leadership, empowering and educating young people politically, embracing the spirit of Ubuntu*, values-based leadership among young people, and holding ourselves accountable as leaders. Ultimately, there needs to be greater accountability to young people’s voices, visions, aspirations, and vision for us, our communities, and the world.
Building an equitable world fosters young people’s access to meaningful economic and livelihood opportunities by creating spaces that facilitate the inclusion of people with different local realities, leading to more opportunities to participate. An equitable society brings more people into the workforce, advancing and growing economies by limiting the effects of stereotypes that lead to inequities. Equity promotes the inclusivity of all youth, from those in vulnerable communities to those with disabilities. It creates opportunities for better wages and social safety, promotes well-being, and ensures fewer missed opportunities for the young labor force.
Equity also leads to more innovation. It grants youth more access to resources, which creates opportunities for diverse livelihood pathways, including better access to entrepreneurship opportunities. Ultimately, we believe that the perception the world has about young people and that we have about ourselves would change, leading to more youth-led policies in the government and civil society.
We are experts in our own lives. We are already filled with experiences of navigating inequities and structural barriers to meaningful economic and livelihood opportunities. Adult allies must move beyond surface-level youth consultation and fully bring young people into decision making. We should be the ones defining what meaningful economic opportunities are for young people rather than having others identify those opportunities for us.
Adults need to unlearn the negative perceptions that they have about young people. They must develop cultural competency to better understand our lived experiences, needs, and perspectives. GYEO stakeholders should focus on involving youth in advancing and enacting suggestions made by youth, ensuring that their voices are amplified and engaged as powerful actors to influence change rather than just recommending change. The representation of young people is crucial to amplify voices and perspectives, not just numbers. This will support young people’s sense of agency and put them at the forefront to be seen, included, and engaged as partners. As young people, we welcome the opportunity to join us as partners so that you can hold yourselves and other allies accountable to this statement.
*The spirit of Ubuntu is essentially to be humane and ensure that human dignity is always at the core of your actions, thoughts, and deeds when interacting with others. Having Ubuntu shows care and concern for your neighbor.