One Million Voices Stories – My life as a young person

Date: 08 December 2015

Empowerment means to me the ability to overcome life’s challenges and manifest potential that once seemed a fantasy, to develop, transform and grow. It means to have the right to be respected as an autonomous person, capable of making decisions regarding one’s own health and lifestyle, and to feel and know the ability to create positive change. This is from my perspective, it is something I hold close to me from my own experience of being a young person. In essence, empowerment is the ability to feel centred and grounded, with the ability to believe in oneself, one’s capability and ability to affect the wider world. At the highest level, empowerment is the ability to self-actualise, to realise potential, and to use that potential to inspire and create a better world for all.

The biggest injustices to young people I see in my country is the over-qualified and over-trained, underemployed underpaid, and the under-qualified and unemployed. Drugs and drug treatment are also a major injustice – particularly with regards to novel psychoactive substances, and police treatment. Injustice is being rejected from your family for being gay, or trans*. It is the prejudice and discrimination faced through just loving someone. It is the loneliness of feeling unaccepted for who you are. It is escaping your home country for fear of death through any means possible, being denied right to asylum, and requested that you prove you are gay. And still denied after providing proof.

Injustice is the non-working class, housing crisis, soup kitchens, food banks, lack of social support, these are also major injustices in my country. Young people cannot get homes of their own, they must rent at extortionate rates in some areas, and for young unemployed people housing welfare support might now be cut between the ages of 18-21. Many think our government view young people as lazy and unwilling to get a job. If looking at the statistics of young homeless people supported by agencies, 40% identify as LGBT – a group discriminated against highly in employment. This could attack young LGBT people particularly, as there is already a massive difficulty in attaining employment, and to lose housing support while looking for a job could result in homelessness.

Injustice is confusion about politics and voting, the lack of knowledge of protesting against new policies. It is poor careers counselling, sexual education and relationship education. It is the lack of funding into youth provision, education and health. Mental health is underfunded; young people are told ‘it’s just a phase/you’re just a teenager/you’ll grow out of it’, but this is often not the case. If the right support can be accessed as a young person, it can greatly improve life as an adult.

Injustice is having to live with your parents’ mistakes. Injustice is having to be a parent to your parent. Injustice is a lack of support. Injustice is eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal ideation. Injustice is growing up with a distorted body image. It is child abuse and neglect, domestic abuse. These are the injustices I see for young people in my country – and these are on my side of the world. If looked the world-over, problems are far worse. There, injustices include not being able to access clean water, food, education, and basic safety needs, having to face terrible threat and harm as part of daily life. It can include exploitation, through being forced to work, or sexual exploitation as seen in Cebu. It is living with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and living every day just to survive and to escape danger.

A young person’s life should be one about learning, to be protected by others until old enough to protect oneself, it should be having access to basic needs – it is a very fragile time where foundation blocks are built for the person to develop into a healthy adult. Being free from threat and danger are crucial for this, and having the opportunity to discover oneself and transform. The opportunity to self-actualise, should be a given right.

My worries are that young people will turn to substance misuse more in my country due to the difficulties not being able to find meaning and purpose, and the inability to secure employment support when needed. It worries me that the LGBT community are at terrible risk the world over. I am worried about the amount of far right groups and their hold on the media, the way their propaganda spreads, and how many racists/homophobes I encounter in my life. It also worries me that many people my age hate religion and go out of their way to verbally attack religious people. It worries me that my younger siblings and I have grown up as women with a very warped expectation of beauty. It worries me that other girls face the same. It worries me that the West are largely kept in the dark about the injustices worldwide – the Syria images have caused a massive stir amongst the UK public, if only they could see images of unfairness the world over. It worries me that the world might get worse… but then I look to my own optimism and believe that as people have become more humane over the centuries, it’s likely we will develop further in that direction.

To have a voice is one of the greatest gifts. To be able to see and speak and invoke positive change and share with others is a tremendous gift. To think of what it is like where young people do not have voices – to be unable to speak up terrifies me. To have a voice means the ability to defend your mind’s utopia, to stand up for what you believe is just and right, to stand up for others and your world. I use my voice in every way I can to manifest the free and fair future I see in my own mind – what I see to enable human beings to live the human condition, to feel, to experience, to grow. To have a voice means I can speak up about the injustices I see around me.

I am passionate about a just society, and future for all; young people’s voices and rights are what will shape our future. It is our responsibility to uphold these – the future of the world depends upon it.

“For further reading on the YMCA One Million Voices Research and to purchase the Report please click here