Youth Engagement in the Global Community
By Haley Weinreich, Wheelock College Student Ambassador
Growing up in Boston and living in a country that prides itself as one of opportunity and freedom, I’m infuriated to see human rights violations being committed against the hungry child, the sick working mom, and the disabled working dad. But this is the tip of the iceberg. In America, the hungry child can still ask for food, the working mom can take a couple days leave and still return to her job, and the disabled dad can apply for disability. A flimsy safety net is better than no safety net at all, and while these services are far from generous, they are still available to a tiny sliver of the people who need them.
And that’s why I find it hard to talk about early youth engagement in the global community- because so many young people are unable to question their government, ask for different healthcare coverage, or go to school. If a child fights against the system of oppression that faces her and succeeds, we must all be there, pen in hand, taking notes on how we can help. Youth engagement is infinitely important to fostering global community development, and yet governments, corporations, fringe groups, and antiquated policies continue to stifle the voice of those trying to speak. That is not okay.
Politics cannot continue to obscure common sense, money cannot continue to influence judgment, and we cannot continue to be silent. We all know what the problems are; We all know what system of healthcare is the most cost-effective, we know where and how kids are being denied an education, and we know how to look for human rights violations. I believe that the first step to fostering youth engagement is actually listening to the kids that are already speaking out about injustices they face every day, holding those accountable that try to quell the concerns of my generation, and cultivate an environment in which their issues become our issues too.
Before we identify as a citizen of our country, a member of our gender, or a believer of our religion, we must first recognize ourselves as humans- members of a world community with world issues that are not separate from our own, and we must own up to our societal responsibility. We are all humans that deserve our human rights, our healthcare, and our education. The future of our world is literally speaking up, and now it’s time to listen.
Haley Weinreich is a Wheelock Junior and Student Ambassador for the 2013 Global Challenges and Opportunities Conference. She is a Political Science and Global Studies Major, with an additional Major in American Studies. She is very interested in healthcare and human rights, and how to apply both of those in a culturally sensitive way.