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A group of young women gathered in a virtual room on a Friday night, not to talk about stereotypical “girl things”, but to talk about important things in general like activism, specifically youth activism.
The forum, titled The Future of Youth Activism, was hosted by the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) and featured five different young activists from diverse backgrounds, but all with something important to say.
Moderated by AWAM Social Media and Advocacy Manager Alyssa Yuzari, the panel discussion included:
- Dewi Mohd – Communication and advertising manager for Loud Asians, an online platform that writes about Malaysian social issues.
- Puteri Nuraaina Balqis – An advocate of #MakeSchoolASaferPlace and launched Save the schools my Instagram – a safe space where victims of sexual harassment can tell their stories.
- Dr Thanussha – Co-founder and vice-president of Muda, a political party focused on young people.
- Nalisa Alia Amin – Independent body-positive model, social media influencer and self-proclaimed “frustrated millennial activist”.
- Davina Devarajan – Program Associate at UNDI18, a Malaysian youth movement that has advocated lowering the minimum voting age in Malaysia from 21 to 18.
We live in the days of “Jurassic Park”
While all women had something to say, the general consensus as to why youth activism is so important in these times is the under-representation of young people in parliament, for example.
Parliament, with its primary function of making laws and representing the voters and citizens of the country, is so important that young people should be well represented.
Dr Thanussha referred to the fact that less than 1% of parliamentarians are under 30, while Nalisa believes there should be a time limit to be a politician.
Davina made a good point about the lack of representation and felt that young people should not be lumped into one group, but rather consider their gender, where they live geographically and their culture as their narratives will be different, and that raises a perspective that we need to make better policies.
Puteri mentioned the kitajaga.co app, a revolutionary platform run by young people who have what it takes to keep the spark alive by channeling their energy and skills to spark change that will become a nationwide movement. She adds that this vigor is the tip of the iceberg for young people to lead the nation.
Metaphorically speaking, with the lack of representation of young people, it’s like we are living in Jurassic (park) times because there are so many dinosaurs.
And you know what happened to the dinosaurs …
To put in context and to sum up the important question of why youth activism is so important to the panel, Dewi of the Loud Asians said:
“It is very important that young people are leaders because without them there is no future because once the dinosaurs are gone and there are no more leaders to take charge, then who else will rule the country? “
Gaps in the system
To fill the gaps that prevail across industries, Muda leads conversations beyond virtual space to the field to formulate first-hand data.
Other means of filling the gaps arise from education and the possibility for young people to reform themselves by practicing mock elections in schools, for example. This will introduce young people to the concept of elections to understand how democracy works, the role of government and parliament.
This idea of thinking also gives students more autonomy to think for themselves and this type of empowerment is beneficial at all levels of society.
A lot to say, not enough time
The 1.5-hour forum allowed the panel to discuss several things, all valid and relevant to the embodiment of youth activism.
From how social media is a great tool to how to go on the ground to reach rural youth is equally important.
Education, whether in school or within ourselves, is also crucial in striving for a better future.
Look at Ain Husniza for example, the 17-year-old who defends the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace campaign and even shed light on the situation globally. It was the self-education and courage he learned from public speaking that made him speak out to know that rape is no joke.
READ MORE: Extraordinarily ordinary: she has spoken and she has not finished yet
At a time when many (older) adults can feel hopelessness, it is the young who have risen to the challenge by speaking out on behalf of future generations.
Whatever the cause, young activists can all agree on one thing: the desire for a better society because actions speak louder than words.
Shed light and watch the full discussion here.
The workshop aims to increase gender awareness among members of political parties and is open to all genders. The first session starts this weekend (July 17 & 18) and if you miss it, another will take place on July 24 and 25.