Youth Advocacy 

In recent years there has been a visible increase in the number of young people involved in global issues including politics, environment and general advocacy.

Given the new age of technology where news shows feature tweets as much as interviews (or more), taking advantage of the opportunities offered by digital media has enabled youth advocates to amplify their voices.

Why are young people becoming more invested in advocacy?

According to the World Economic Forum, this generation of young people “will be the first generation to be worse off than their parents, yet they are still expected to pick up the tab for the planet’s problems, including an ageing population, global debt and climate change.”

Born into a generation that expects to be saddled with struggles greater than previous generations could have inspired youths to become more invested in positive social change.  

To delve deeper, HAD asked a small selection of youths aged 15-24 about their views on youth advocacy as well as if they felt empowered as youths to bring about social change and why.

Overall, the questioned participants expressed that they felt empowered or encouraged on a social level to advocate for change.

“…social media in addition to freedom of speech in the West provide a platform to broadcast ideas and opinions regarding social change, like never before in human history. As long as the ideas are based on facts and sufficient evidence, age is becoming less of a factor in the way society, in general accepts ideas and social changes to be considered.” – Shehvaar Khan, Microfinance Graduate Trainee (Islamic Relief Worldwide)

The majority of those who answered ‘no’ gave personal reasons, such as a lack of time and commitment rather than social obstructions. However there was one participate who felt strongly that they weren’t empowered to bring about change.

“So much is happening in the world today and so many people are battling for the limelight so to speak so that awareness can be raised for their issues. In addition, the increased connection of the world means you hear everyone’s wars, political issues, famine and so on. As a privileged person living a fairly comfortable life my issues seem so small in comparison that I can’t afford the ‘limelight’. – Zaynah Iqbal, Learning and Development Assistant (HAD)

When asked what more can be done to provide a platform for youth advocates, a variety of suggestions were made.

Some of these suggestions include: additional ways to increase awareness and education for youths on how to fully utilise existing platforms for advocacy purposes; utilising social media; how to best communicate with different audiences; how to maximise youth participation and organising youth conferences and campaigns.

“The youth need to know about the issues facing their generation in their local communities and around the world. If they don’t know enough about them, how can they advocate for social change?” – Tom Goodwin, Programmes and Grants Coordinator (HAD)

A digital age and a digital generation

Digital media, particularly social media, is continually associated with youths, which is something that they have utilised to their advantage. Social media is arguably the platform with the largest potential, with endless possibilities for youth advocacy.

The internet provides everyone with a platform where they can partake in advocacy and have access to free information regardless of age, gender, religion and so forth.

The rise in social media usage and the age of globalisation provides a more connected world than ever before, and today we hear the news of the world not only from the angle of news anchors, but live from civilians, whether it is in the form of live-streaming a protest or sharing experiences regarding a trending topic.

It is this global connection that allows us to bring forth subjects into the light that may otherwise be unknown.

Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool with its hashtag system and ability to instantly allow all users to view the trending topics of the world. This includes social and humanitarian topics including Black History, International Women’s Day, Climate Change Strike and so on.

According to a global digital report by We Are Social and Hootsuite, 33% of Twitter’s users are between the ages of 13-24.

This means that almost one third of all Twitter userse considered youths by the UNs statistical definition.

Below you can see a list of all the best Twitter hashtags based on performance from 2017 to 2019.

Best Performing Twitter Hashtags

  1. crypto
  2. influencermarketing
  3. womenshistorymonth
  4. blackhistorymonth
  5. cryptocurrency
  6. bitcoin
  7. internationalwomensday
  8. cryptocurrencies
  9. java
  10. blockchain
  11. iwd2019
  12. competition
  13. pressforprogress
  14. influencer
  15. olympics
  16. influencers
  17. datascience
  18. fintech
  19. womenintech
  20. metoo
  21. deeplearning
  22. science
  23. sxsw
  24. fridayfeeling
  25. cloudsecurity
  26. MondayMotivation
  27. tbt
  28. wcw
  29. thursdaythoughts
  30. traveltuesday
  31. vegan
  32. fitness
  33. blessed
  34. goals

A large selection of the best performing hashtags relate to advocacy issues,  showing the level of influence these platforms can and have had to raise awareness around the globe.

There are several links and resources such as youth advocacy toolkits that can aid youths in promoting causes they believe in.

The UN has also released a youth-centred strategy with the aims of facilitating “… increased impact and expanded global, regional and country-level action to address the needs, build the agency and advance the rights of young people in all their diversity”.

The strategy also identifies how it can be integrated with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and other global frameworks.

These are just a handful of some of the recent activities within youth advocacy and it is increasing every day.

The UN has dedicated resources to its Youth Strategy and Unicef also has its own dedicated youth ambassadors and advocates.

It’s clear that not only the UN but the world at large is paying more attention to youth advocacy and more and more youths are participating in tackling youth related issues.

Though undoubtedly this is a positive change, this raises some questions such as ‘Are youths engaging because the world has failed to address their issues?’, ‘Is society empathetic towards these issues or simply forced to pay attention?’ in order to better improve the process of youth advocacy, address and break down potential obstacles.

Written by Hannan Almasyabi

Marketing Support Officer

Further Reading:

United Nations World Youth Report

United Nations Youth Strategy