All over the world, we recognise that the voice of youth is getting louder by the day.
The likes of Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson addressing the United Nations became the epitome of how youth play an active role in achieving sustainability in the socio-political, education and economical spheres.
In conjunction with International Youth Day celebration this year (2015), themed “Youth Civic Engagement”, we caught up with a few leaders of non-governmental organisations (NGO) and social enterprises to gain their insights on our youth in Malaysia.
- How is the level of youth engagement when it comes to achieving sustainable human development?
- What are some of the efforts taken by your organisation to engage Malaysian youth?
- What’s your message to our youth?
Amnesty International Malaysia
1. Universities have always been a hub for human rights consciousness and dialogue. Here in Malaysia, I have seen students engage beyond words, with actions. Most recently, student activists protested at the Kita Lawan rally, only to be arrested. It is our obligation as a society to preserve spaces for freedom of expression and assembly. When this is created, we can harness the potential of youth who can freely exercise their freedom of expression and assembly.
2. Amnesty International is a member-based organisation. We focus and depend on engagement with the public. For the youth, we have an existing Youth Network, AMNESTeam – a series of conversations designed to engage youth – as well as internships.
3. We sometimes underestimate the youth, but I believe that their young age is exactly what we need for the public sphere of civil society. My advice? Stay that way. Always open up to new perspectives. Be open to engage in debate and always be willing to have your mindset changed.
1. Youth engagement is relatively low in Malaysia. We seriously need to address this. If we allow this to slip, we will encounter a serious inter-generational gap in addressing sustainable development.
2. We have internship and volunteer programmes for youths. Things have been encouraging especially when we review the efforts, motivation, and attitudes of the youths who participate in them. Many of our signature programmes such as the Knights of Nature Sustainability Camps are designed to empower Malaysian youths in addressing environmental and social issues.
3. The world is beyond us and our immediate surroundings. It requires the collective effort of everyone to protect this planet to meet our future needs. You need to start tuning your mind to address not just your concerns, but those of everyone else on this planet.
Raj Ridvan Singh
Science of Life Studies 24/7 Malaysia (SOLS 24/7 Malaysia)
Co-founder and director
1. With an emphasis towards human-human and human-environment relationships, the level of youth engagement and participation is still low. There are pockets of awareness, but collectively youth has not fully grasped the interdependence of the abovementioned relationships.
2. Truly engaging youth in sustainable human development is a task not to be taken lightly. We believe that every step will eventually lead to more involvement. As a primarily youth-driven NGO, our team members mostly consist of 18 to 35-year-old international and local full-time employees, interns and volunteers.
Through our education and social empowerment arms, we spearhead projects that they are passionate about. These projects often involve all layers of communities, and are led by youth.
Some of our beneficiaries have returned to us as community development officers. They have set up community centres throughout Malaysia to provide free education and conduct social empowerment programmes.
3. I hope Malaysian youth will become socially conscious and be aware of the social challenges in the country.
It is my hope that they will take actions to improve environmental, health and educational issues. It is not only the responsibility of the government, but the citizens themselves. They can make a difference if they choose to do so.
Chong Keat Lim
1. There are discrepancies when it comes to engagement and participation of Malaysian youth in such efforts. Youth in urban areas may be more engaged than youth in rural areas, for example.
2. Through our youth leadership camps, we aim to create a positive influence in the leadership landscape in the country where 30% of our campers are fully sponsored from underprivileged backgrounds. We seek to provide a good platform where youths can work together across racial and economic gaps.
The Leaderonomics Club initiative in schools aims to drive intentional leadership growth amongst students and their peers in their immediate space of influence. By giving proper coaching, we believe youths can make a difference and excel beyond academics.
Through our youth inspiration centre, DropZone, we build grassroot leaders from that locality. Our programmes are meant to inspire, empower and build solid relationships among youth so they grow to become agents of change for their communities, starting from where they are.
We actively engage with our past participants to return to build on their leadership foundation by progressing toward facilitation and internships.
3. Be the positive difference wherever you are!
This year’s theme emphasises youth involvement in the public arena more strongly than ever. When we say civic engagement, we are talking about taking proactive action to get involved in a worthy cause.
To all youth, don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, in everything you do and engage in, set an excellent example for the rest to follow.
You are, after all, the future leaders of our world. To reap the fruits of tomorrow, start planting the seeds today!
“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth.” – Benjamin Disraeli