This past May, I had the opportunity to attend the Governor General Youth Engagement Roundtable held at Western University. The roundtable was a group of youth who sat down looking for ways to engage other youth to be active members of their communities and find ways to meaningfully contribute to their local communities. It was also a way we could directly speak with someone who was a member of the government and have them hear in on what we had to say about our experiences and what changes we want to see.
I personally was lucky enough to sit side by side with Governor Johnson, and have the ability to have him listen to what I had to say about certain struggles that youth face. I mentioned that many of the challenges that we face are lack of services that are available to youth because of the perception that we are all party goers, not as interested or serious about getting involved in our community. There is also a bias that many people have over certain communities, where opportunities are not as visible. In fact, many youth in these communities are very much interested in getting involved, but are looking for someone to relate to in order to feel more comfortable. One topic that came up often is that in the government we have people representing youth who are not youth, in that case how are youth being spoken for when it is done by somebody who is not a representation of a youth.
We also discussed ways in which we as youth can support our fellow peers in becoming future leaders of tomorrow. Some ideas that were generated included:
1. “Youth are expected to change the world but adults have the resources.”
2. Community = communication + unity: which means as long as we find ways to have meaningful dialogue between us youth and adults who our representing us then the whole notion of community is developed because we find ways to work together.
3. Voices against Violence is a project that does exactly what we discussed in terms of unity. We have co-researchers who are providing us with their knowledge and experience from a youth perspective, we then have our research team of experienced professionals who would be the adults; and lastly we then have The National Youth Advisory Board who are in a sense foreseeing the project in terms of development and such. This is the whole notion of communication + unity because it displays how youth and adults can come together and create a community to make change.
Another point I brought up which I feel also connects to structural violence is that, though we as youth in general have struggles in terms of employment, education and such; being a person of a visible minority also creates a greater challenge. Though we as a society have progressed, there are still many structural systems that are preventing opportunities for minorities. In that case we not only have the struggle of being a youth but we also have the struggle of being a youth from a visible minority.
During the Youth Roundtable event I had the ability to network with many other youth, we built connections while expressing and sharing our love for the same thing, and that was change. Being part of the Voices against Violence project makes me very proud to know that all of the challenges that we mention as youth are not a barrier. Through this project we are a community. We come from a variety of ethnicities and the one thing we all share in common is love for progress and change.
About the author:
Emanuela Bringi is a founding member of the Voices against Violence, and a former participant of the national project's first research group in London, Ontario.