Beyond a fashionable “ Youth Civic Engagement”
We wonder what the power of 1.8 billion young people can bring to the world. We wonder if these 1.8 billion young people are aware that they are THE generation to build the future ,that they can, not only dream but work for a better world.
AIESEC being the world’s largest student-led organization gathers youth from over 125 countries who by joining develop themselves personally and professionally and engage in volunteering projects to help grow their communities. It sounds so simple really, but it is not.
Every young person before joining any organization, must have hesitated, had second thoughts, putting into question his/her value as a citizen or even was oblivious to the fact that he/she can be a change agent. Unlike what some millennials think, being a civil society member is truly a massive responsibility and being actively engaged is not as easy as taking a selfie. It is a thorny but rewarding road where youth commit mistakes and learn from them. One Local Committee President , Zied Hedhiri speaks up:
“Being young is discovering, making mistakes, facing obstacles but none of them is right if we don’t extract the learning point of each experience, the good and the bad, what to do again, what to do better and what to stop doing. I believe in learning by doing. I will seize every opportunity to learn more about leadership and discover what people think about it. I am preparing to launch a new Project that will be the leadership knowledge provider to our youth in Tunisia and the booster that may help them create new projects and those projects will definitely help the national economy and the employability in Tunisia.”
We asked our youth how they feel being young in Tunisia.
Amal Abayed a 19 year-old med student and a member of AssociaMED revealed “ It’s our traditional places, our dialect, our thoughts and our creativity that make our youth special.
“ There should always be a cause for hope especially when youth experience the essence of their culture and value its uniqueness. It will push them forward to defend it and speak up for it.”
However, the situation of youth in Tunisia can be viewed at times as grim with unemployment rate rising among the young graduates. Some of the reasons behind this issue is that youth are poorly equipped with what will facilitate career choosing for them at the beginning of their educational journey. The dissemination of labor market information is still problematic with the lack of governmental orientation seminars or any form of guidance. Unsure and undecided ,the youth of today still worry about which career path suits them best.
Ranwa Nasfi, a 22year-old student and member of Association Tounissiet expresses:
“Living in Tunisia must be tough, especially with the political and economic instability. The Future seems to be hazy and blurred and the standards of life are too high. You have to fight to get a decent job. We are always worried about our future.”
This undecidability is accompanied by a strong fear of failure that hinders youth development. Nouha Habouria, a student a certified Human Development Coach of the Canadian Center believes that :
“Time is wealth. Fortunately, the Tunisian youth is growing all the more conscious of that fact. The engagement of many of them in civil society proves their awareness of the importance of turning obstacles and failures into opportunities and successes. I believe that today’s so-called « losers », who are fighting for dreams nobody else seems to believe in, are the morrow leaders.”
Regardless of youth situation, young people need to feel empowered in order to make a real contribution as citizens. Regardless of their ethnic or regional belonging, they should enjoy the same empowerment . Issrar Chamekh a 22 year old student and MEPI Alumna confesses”
“Since 2011, civil society activities have radically changed. We are gradually learning to implement it in our civil education and our mentality. Young people are boiling with energy and they invest it in improving the country. They see it as a means to express their unique identities while creating change in their communities. Yet in my opinion, the problem with civil society is that it remains quite centralized in major Tunisian cities. This lack of balance in terms of access to opportunities that ultimately channel young energy, is harmful to the young people from disadvantaged areas as well as the future of the country. In my opinion, it is at the heart of issues of youth violence and crime. In the end, if young people from poor areas do not find a way to share their visions of their country and feel part of it, then this repression is only bound to have severe repercussions on their future selves and so on the whole of society.”
What we truly lack is an evaluation of youth participation is civic activities. How satisfied are they? Have they gained the added value they were looking for ? Have they been able to impact their communities ? In what ways? Civil society organisms should be able to provide such evaluations . They should be in a constant state of self-correction seeking to be always relevant and target the right people in their projects. Many are the national and international campaigns to end child labour that have failed because they did not take the views and experiences of working children and young people into account.
“It is high time to address youth as a priority” This is how Manel Khedim, co-founder of Aspire To Inspire Initiative ,phrases her opinion. She believes that participation in the public life strengthens a commitment to and an understanding of human rights and democracy. It enables youth to see where they stand at in society and how they can shape it. She says:
“This country was also built by young people, some of the even died defending their rights to democratic education, equality, and to freedom of expression, and most of these issues are still overlooked by the same political groups. Each young person had an idea today, an opinion to defend. Each one of us has something to do or to say about our communities. We fight on a regular basis to make our voices heard, through social media, blogs, articles, youth organisations and associations, etc. The youth today is doing its best to build a solid ground of youth activism, especially for matters concerning education and employment. However, this could only be possible if young people detached themselves from extremist ideologies and politicization. I guess it is important for every young person to think about the future as something that does not only belong to them, but to the next generations of young people as well.”
To be part of civil society is to dream big and to believe that you can realize that dream of yours with a common vision and people to back you up and remind you at every step why you’re doing what you’re doing .
This article was originally published here: http://www.aiesectn.org/youth-civic-engagement/