There’s no doubt that youth engagement has been getting a lot of attention lately. But youth engagement is nothing new for us – Girl Guides of Canada is all about girls empowering girls as they explore all the ways they can amplify their voices on the social issues that matter to them. Yet a recent poll conducted for a coalition of national youth serving agencies – including Girl Guides of Canada – reveals that a majority of Canadians don’t believe youth are prepared to be active civic leaders in their community. The poll shows that while a majority of Canadians believe that youth have too little influence over the decisions governments, 7 in 10 feel that young people are not prepared to be civic leaders in their communities.
We asked two members of our National Youth Council for their reaction to the survey. Here’s what they have to say:
What was your reaction to the data that 7 out of 10 Canadians believe young people are not prepared to be civic leaders in their communities?
“Honestly, my first reaction to this data was disappointment. I was shocked to see how little confidence Canadians have in youth’s potential to become leaders. The data highlighted for me how essential it is for more to be done to foster leaders among our youth and to change public perception about them. I personally feel prepared to become a civic leader in my community, but this is purely due to the opportunities I have had to develop skills that would aid me in this area.” – Kianna
“My first reaction is surprise that few Canadians think that youth are well prepared to be civic leaders. I personally feel ready as I do research about issues in my community and actively participate in many different events.” – Emily
Do you think adults need to do a better job of listening to youth – to what matters to them and their ideas?
“Without hesitation, yes. While some may think youth have less valuable opinions, their opinions should not be overlooked and their voices no less heard. If youth are provided adequate information you’ll find that not only do they offer a very fresh perspective but bring many innovative ideas to the today which are extremely valuable. All people have to do is ask us.” – Kianna
“I think adults should do more to listen. Youth have valid, well thought out opinions on issues that matter to them. While you must be 18 to vote, 18 is not some magical number where people suddenly start thinking about politics and having important thoughts on issues that affect our country. Adults should not dismiss youth voices on the false basis that we are inexperienced and do not understand what we are talking about. Youth have access to online resources that allow us to be up to date and well informed on a variety of issues.” – Emily
Among your peers, what are the issues that matter most to them at the moment?
“I feel confident in saying that everyone is affected by mental health in some form and that is why it is the hot topic of discussion for myself and among my peers. While youth are passionate about making change and supporting people when it comes to mental health, not enough of us are taking initiative to do anything about it. I think this is because my peers and honestly, myself included, don’t know how to take this passion to the next level. Encouraging youth to take action and making them aware of the opportunities out there to do so would be a great step forward in allowing our generation to become leaders and change makers.” – Kianna.
“I think post-secondary costs are an important issue to many. Many jobs are demanding more qualified employees, but university can be inaccessible without taking on great amounts of student debt. Another important issue is mental health and the stigma around mental health. Comprehensive education about mental health in the education system from a younger age would be beneficial to teaching us about mental health issues and helping us become more compassionate.” – Emily
Emily Vandermeer of Edmonton, AB and Kianna Benson of Bedford, NS are members of Girl Guides of Canada’s National Youth Council. For more, check out The Kids are all right and their time is now – Emily and Kianna’s joint article with other Canadian youth for iPolitics.