Voices of Our Generation: Engaging Youth in Policy Making

On a summer night in 2020, our Zoom meeting was filled with a heated debate on the Dalit movement. Arguments found common ground and turned into ideas, so what? How could we translate our ideas into action? We were just four 17 year olds, frustrated by our lack of voice where it matters. In a country where 41% of the population is under the age of 20, why do young people have so few opportunities to participate in the policy-making process?

To ensure the representativeness of political systems, all sectors of society should be included. When young people are excluded from the policy-making process, a significant portion of the population has little or no influence over decisions that affect their lives. Young people need to participate in formal political processes and have a say in policymaking now and in the long term. Full political participation is not only a democratic right, but it is also vital for building stable and peaceful societies and developing policies that meet all kinds of demands of our generation – Generation Z.

For young people to be adequately represented in political institutions, processes and decision-making, and especially in elections, they must know their rights and be given the necessary information and the capacity to participate effectively at all levels. When there are barriers to participating in formal and legitimate politics, we young people can be easily overwhelmed. We can often believe that our words will not be heard or that they will not be taken seriously if they are heard. This problem is circular, and we may tend to get locked into decision-making or discussions on important socio-economic issues, despite their sensitivity to the demands of social equity and justice, environmental protection or social justice. cultural diversity.

The importance of youth engagement in policy making can be seen through its success beyond our shores. From the students of Parkland to the Arab Spring, young adults have always been the driving force behind social change.

Most of us know for example Greta Thunberg. A 15-year-old teenager sparked a global movement of school-aged students by sitting in front of Sweden’s parliament every day for three weeks to protest inaction over the climate crisis. Today, she was recognized by UNICEF, nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and donated $ 100,000 to protect children from the COVID19 pandemic.

Another successful youth-led movement took place in 1968, when Mexican-American students took the lead in a school movement seeking an education that represented their culture, language, and identity. Among the largest student protests in US history, it influenced educational policy, practice and rights.

Activities that promote nation-building and skills development are essential features of youth engagement in India, however, reworking the goals of these activities is something that needs to be reviewed to prepare young people for citizenship. active and social development. As a young nation, our greatest asset is our people, as they are the engine of development and economic growth. The government must be aware of this and promote contemporary governance measures that are adequate to address the challenges facing young people. Previous programs such as the NYP and NLYP promote great social engagement skills – however, these are very limited and do not address the broader concerns of young people. By rethinking and reforming these programs to make them alternatives that enable stakeholder engagement between state-led non-state actors and youth and enable the genesis of grassroots advocacy groups that actively and harmoniously cooperate with government and private sector, we will transcend the Sustainable Development Goals as the backbone of the country will be revitalized to meet and overcome obstacles with the help of government. The main objective of these programs should be synonymous with the development of India as well as the empowerment of the youth.

Moreover, giving young people the opportunity to engage in policymaking not only benefits young people, but rather civil society as a whole. The process of speech, debate and action creates active citizens who are more involved in their local communities and democracy at all levels. It also exposes our government to a whole new generation of ideas for improving our democratic processes.

By engaging with young people, businesses can gain valuable insight into the soon-to-be-largest consumer segment, Gen Z. There is a fundamental gap between big business and Gen Z, and businesses need to rethink how to deliver value to young people. to ensure long-term success. Understanding the perspectives of young people is a critical first step. However, the main beneficiaries could be NGOs. As noted by UN India, there is an urgent need to improve the culture of volunteering in India. Civic-minded youth are considerably more likely to volunteer, expanding the volunteer base and supporting efforts to counter the plethora of socio-cultural issues we face.

Overall, providing our generation with the opportunity to engage in the policy-making process is key to upholding our country’s democratic ideal of self-determination. Young people need more visibility and representation at all levels to create a more sustainable, inclusive and socially effective society. As former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “Any society that fails to tap into the energy and creativity of its youth will be left behind.” Now is the time to make sure India is not left behind.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.