Why Tokenism Diminishes Young People’s Voice

Tokenism is something that affects young people disproportionately. Here is one organisation looking to change that.

Today, on August 13, the Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety is hosting an online event starting from 3pm CEST to commemorate International Youth Day (IYD) with the strapline No More Youth Tokenism!

In this piece, together with Maolin Macatangay, Youth for Road Safety (YOURS) Communications Officer and Global Youth Coalition Youth Advisory Board Member, we will see how you can join the event, what its key message is and how they work to strengthen young people’s voice.

Besides, she elaborates what tokenism is and why it diminishes or eliminates young people’s voice, and has a message to spread for this IYD too.

Continue reading for an encouraging story of activism, hard work and inspiration for youth. 

The Road Towards a Meaningful Youth’s Participation

Representing almost 600 members from 98 countries, the Global Youth Coalition is holding this artistic and interactive session where various stakeholders will discuss the importance of meaningful youth participation under the abovementioned theme. 

Macatangay briefs us on the event and how this theme was selected and how it impacts meaningful youth participation, by linking it to the theme of IYD 2021 – which is: “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”. This a theme emphasizing that the success of such a global effort will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people.

On this note, she says there is a need for inclusive support mechanisms that ensure youth continue to amplify efforts collectively and individually to restore the planet and protect life.

“We are making a call to end youth tokenism to get decision-makers, leaders, organizations, and other stakeholders to meaningfully engage with young people as leaders and partners instead of just boxes that need to be ticked,” says Macatangay, who is one of the main organisers of the event. 

 

Youth as Powerful Changemakers

Speaking from her experience, in this part of our interview together, she shares her stand on youth’s role in today’s world and is it being appreciated enough.

Initially, Macatangay recalls young people make up a huge part of the world and are the most affected for issues like road safety, climate change, health, education, equality, and more.

Hence, it only makes sense to include and involve them in all stages of decision-making, from planning to evaluation, she believes.

“We see young people taking on the role of leader, partners, stakeholder, beneficiary, and more.”

Putting it simply, she goes on; they do not limit the role of youth according to one project or one initiative.

“Young people are powerful change makers who can and are changing the world.”

From what they have seen, there are efforts to actively and meaningfully engage with young people.

Global Road Safety Week: The Urgency of Low-Speed Streets

“More and more organizations are creating youth boards where youth are part of decision-making, where they can provide their inputs, ideas, opinions, and more. This being said, there is still a lot of work to be done, but it is a great step forward seeing young people leading action and efforts like our members from the Coalition,” she adds. 

 

The Importance of Tackling Tokenism

As highlighted by this event, the major challenge young people face is tokenism, Macatangay asserts.

“The practice of using sectors like the youth sector as a symbolic effort or a box that needs to be ticked off to simply give the appearance of equality and involvement.”

According to her, tokenism diminishes, or worse, eliminates the voice young people have and the efforts that they could make to contribute to different development efforts that can serve their peers and the rest of the world.

As a youth-focused organization, they are fighting against by putting young people at the centre of all their efforts and initiatives.

Let’s see how this is achieved.

“We do this by providing them with tools, resources, opportunities, platforms, networks, and partnerships that could support them in the efforts and projects they want to pursue (i.e. Local Actions).”

Every effort is done to make sure that the vision of the members is realized and that the Coalition provides them [the members] with all they need to grow and flourish.

“We also do not limit these opportunities to our members – by hosting events such as this, we are reaching out to more young people, letting them know about their potential and right to be meaningfully engaged.”

Meaningful youth participation is both the means and the ends when we talk about ending youth tokenism. 

On a conclusive note, Macatangay calls for young people around the world to claim their space.

“Take action against the biggest issues that you and your peers are facing! Remember, you are not alone. You have a strong youth network behind you and allies who are supporting the fight against tokenism.”

If you want to get involved with meaningful youth engagement, we encourage you to join the Global Youth Coalition

“It unites individual youth and organizations in a member-based structure guided by key principles of meaningful youth participation in road safety and sustainable mobility actions and are currently represented in 98 countries by our members.”

Youth Time will keep you posted on the work of Coalition’s members and their achievements in protecting and promoting youth’s rights, meaningful youth participation, road safety, and more.

Today, you can start your journey by participating in this session for IYD by registering at bit.ly/notoyouthtokenism.

To the youth of the world, Happy International Youth Day for yesterday! Keep claiming your space!


On International Youth Day, we looked back on some inspiring people helping others that we have spoken to.

Celebrating International Youth Day: Throwback to Four Fantastic Young People

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