Educating and Empowering Youth

Why engage youth?

Working with children and youth to develop their advocacy skills ensures that the next generation will be better-equipped to tackle the world’s issues. In times of uncertainty, helping children and youth take action on issues that matter to them can help to relieve feelings of apathy, powerlessness, and anxiety while impacting decision-makers.

Young people are not just the next generation, but they are ready to act. We need to foster youth they can take action today.

Young people often face barriers to engaging in meaningful advocacy work and sometimes adults don’t take them seriously. Acting as a bridge between children/youth and decision-makers can help make their unique perspectives heard. This can also emphasize a youth’s right to self-determination, strengthen their autonomy, and leadership skills as well as foster feelings of empowerment, belonging and independence.

Why kinds of issues should you engage youth?

Allow young people the space to decide what issues interest and impact them.

Whatever issue you decide to address with children and youth, make sure you are acting as a mentor and facilitator instead of an instructor. Children & youth can and will identify problems that matter to them and solutions to those problems. You can play a valuable role by providing knowledge, resources, and perspective for the youths’ ideas. Help youth to set realistic goals for their ideas and support them to ensure they do not become overwhelmed. Help them to stay on schedule and offer your own suggestions based on life experience.

Where, when, and how to connect?

Interacting with young people in your community and empowering them to make change can be done through a variety of programs. Reaching out to a local youth-focused organization about becoming a guest speaker or volunteer can help you make connections with youth-serving groups in your area. You can also reach out to local politicians to see if they offer groups where you can work with young girls to determine the issues they are passionate about. Or start your own program!!

Tips & Tricks - Connecting and Empowering

Importance of identifying and minimizing bias

What is Bias?

DEFINITION

Bias

A natural cognitive response that helps us to make quick judgements in new social situations.

By identifying and cultivating an active awareness of our unconscious and conscious biases, we can start to examine them more carefully and take steps to fight them. It becomes problematic when we don’t acknowledge our own biases and how they impact other people.

Being aware of our own bias is especially important when working with children and youth. Mentors and facilitators are in positions of power, and young people are likely to listen to what we have to say. Integrating culturally-diverse perspectives and information sources into your education efforts can help to reduce bias. It can be hard to think outside of your own perspective, which is why elevating marginalized and diverse voices is important when working with youth. Invite in a guest speaker to share their thoughts on a topic or seek out reference material that has been written by voices from outside of your community to increase the diversity of your information.

Make sure you are creating a safe space for children and youth that allows them to make mistakes. If you see unintentional bias, intervene in a way that educates them, rather than to isolate them. Intentional acts of prejudice or bias should be dealt with quickly and fairly to demonstrate that you don't condone the behavior. A youth-developed code of conduct with fair consequences and decided as a group can help hold members accountable for their actions.  Model how to handle uncomfortable situations by responding non-defensively, if you are told that something you said or did was offensive.

Additional Resources

Further reading

Youth-serving organizations