For the purposes of this post, let me clarify the two key words;
Platforms- spaces, usually invited where we assert our needs/concerns. Can also be viewed as opportunities to push the youth agenda forward.
Recognition- acknowledgement/appreciation. In this context, need for a cookie every time after work done.
Dear fellow youth activists, entrepreneurs, innovators, founders and co-founders of organizations aka change agents!
Firstly, let me applaud us on all the great work we are doing. From social media, radio and TV updates, one cannot deny that we are working hard to contribute to the development of our communities. Gone are the days when we the youth just sat back. Instead, we have responded to the call, risen to the task and are making waves in our countries and beyond! While we continuously face different challenges, we have refused to stop, we have been innovative and we have claimed spaces that were once far-fetched.
The one common denominator among us all is passion. Passion to see change. Passion to be part of the solution. Passion to see our countries progress and transform. We have all translated this passion into work in our different fields.
This brings me to the point of my post. I have noticed with worry how at a significant number of events, we the youth continue to complain about platforms to speak and the lack of recognition for our efforts. Here, I am not dismissing nor ignoring the different challenges we continue to face. Unfortunately, sometimes we have been blind in recognizing the walls we have brought down. We have used the ‘wins’ for platforms to continue to complain.
We don’t have the luxury of complaining and whining when we get platforms to speak and share our issues. For instance, I recently attended a high-profile meeting where a certain international organization was launching a Global youth development Index and report. This document provides an evidence-based overview of the state of development for the nearly 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 30 in the world.
A youth speaker was invited to speak on behalf of the youth regarding the findings of the report. The youth speaker kept repeating how young people need help and how they need platforms to speak. Mind you, this was an event to launch a report that will be used in our advocacy campaigns, in our youth programming and yet the youth speaker used the opportunity to keep begging for platforms to speak. One of my sisters captured it well when she said; “youth ask for platforms to speak and even when we are given these platforms, we use them to ask for platforms to speak…”
When we are given the opportunity to represent fellow youth, let us do so diligently, ensuring we do our homework and make maximum use of these spaces. Additionally, when we get such opportunities, we must ensure that we are not the first and last to access them. We must reach down and hold the ladder for fellow youth. We must resist the urge of monopolizing these spaces and do away with elitist tendencies. Even better, instead of waiting to be invited, let us continue mobilizing and claiming our own spaces to speak out and speak up!
The second issue I want to address is that of begging for recognition. I have mentioned above how our common denominator is passion. It’s good to be praised and recognized for work done and for our efforts but when our work depends on those praises, it is time to check ourselves. I have sat in meetings and seen social media feeds of young people bemoaning the lack of recognition. Some of us have even demanded meetings with our heads of states after the sense of entitlement we feel when we achieve something in our fields. But do we stop and ask ourselves so what? For instance, after the recognition meetings we crave happen, so what? When we work diligently without the hunger for recognition driving us, we will not have to beg for it. In fact, we will be too busy that recognition will be the last thing on our minds.
In some instances, we even bend ourselves into shapes we are not comfortable with so we may be ‘recognized’. How many times have we applied for conferences and embarked on projects that have been outside our areas of interest just for the opportunity to be ‘recognized’? Dare I not forget the lists that come out every other day of ’30 successful youth under 30 to look out for’, ’20 upcoming young entrepreneurs’ and so many more that are becoming hard to keep up with. The world is actually indulging in our hunger for recognition. We must ask ourselves why we do what we do and if recognition is the answer, we are likely to fail.
Begging for platforms to speak and under-utilizing them when we get the opportunity and craving for recognition are two problems I believe we must reflect on as young people. We must use the opportunities we get fully to push our agendas forward. Most importantly, let’s continue to create our own spaces to speak up and speak out. As for recognition, I suggest we replace our craving for it with support systems within our networks that help us soldier on and keep us from burning out. Remember, Change is not an event, it is a process.