Youth activists tend to be older teenagers and to mobilize at their schools or universities, as in Iran after the overthrow of the Shah and Apartheid South Africa’s South African Student’s Movement formed in 1968. British academic Karen Wells observed the term “youth” usually refers to boys and young men because many young women are not allowed to be independent adults and they’re defined by becoming married mothers. Young people are often in the vanguard of political campaigns such as Latin American uprisings against dictators in the 1930s through the 1950s, US Civil Rights in the 1950s to mid-1960s and anti-war movements, and Mexican student uprisings in 1968. Generally young people don’t feel hostile to older generations and are not more revolutionary than their parents (with exceptions such as the Red Guards in the Chinese Cultural Revolution who attacked their teachers) and most are not activists.[i] Those that do become politically engaged often organize as unsullied moral guardians needed to clean up corruption and immorality; for example, China’s Red Guards, Iran’s Basiji Revolutionary Guards or Hitler youth. Their efforts to clean up society can lead to “spectacular excess and a politics of terror”, so it’s not accurate to stereotype all youth uprisings as progressive.
Educated youth expect they’ll have economic and social opportunities; when their goals are blocked, activism can result so they become more outspoken than their less educated parents. When educated youth do have opportunities, they’re less likely to be politically active. Long-term success of youth movements requires support by a larger movement. Revolutionary governments in China, Cuba, Iran and Ethiopia mobilized youth to shake up traditions such as obedience to parents by sending them away from home to the countryside to teach literacy and work.
[i] Karen Wells. Childhood in a Global Perspective. Polity Press, 2015, pp. 137-138.
The Global Solutions Lab brings young people aged 15 to 26 together to research solutions to world problems.[i] To improve education they suggest UNICEF’s “School-In-A-Box” packed with supplies, lesson plans, and other resources for the over 100 million children not in school; mobile schools in buses; the UN Girls Education Initiative, peer teaching; Wi-Fi for Education to provide Internet access; WE CAN website for educators to share resources; and using schools as community education hubs in “Education for All for Life” including gardens, water catchment and energy production in SEED (Synergetic Educational Experience and Development). The researchers estimated that $15 billion would fund these programs for a year, including a self-sustaining demonstration school in each region.
[i] Medard Gabel. Designing a World that Works for All. BigPictureSmallWorld, 2015, pp. 223-271.
Leading causes of death for teenage girls
- Maternal conditions
- Road injury
- Diarrhoeal diseases
Leading causes of death for teenage boys
- Road injury
- Interpersonal violence
Plan International interviewed over 7,000 teens aged 12 to 16 in focus groups in 11 developing countries. The researchers believe it’s one of the largest studies of its kind, conducted to enhance their Child Centred Community Development approach and combine social action with social research.[i] On the positive side, girls were likely to say they matter in their communities, especially in Asia and Central and South America. But, typically girls dion’t know they have rights and felt pressured to be “good girls.” A third of the girls said they never speak up around boys and men (especially problematic in East and Southern Africa and Central and South America) and only 38% said they have control over their marriages. This choice was considered the most important measure of empowerment. Girls in Asia and Western Africa had less choice about marriage, but a Bangladeshi girl reported girls decide about getting marriage because “now they are aware from different TV programs on negative impact of early marriage.” About half the girls said they didn’t have a choice about getting pregnant. Many weren’t educated about safe sex or contraception.
Access to school was the second most important measure of empowerment overall, but the most important issue in Asia. They feel encouraged to do well in school by parents and teachers, although low-income girls get less encouragement. Boys in Uganda said “educated girls bring in more dowry” and girls are encouraged so that “they do not go for short cuts like sugar daddies.” One in four girls didn’t feel safe on their way to school or feel comfortable using the school latrine (especially in West Africa), reporting violence is likely to occur around these outbuildings. Violence against girls is considered normal in many areas: A girl in Nicaragua said, “Rape and kidnapping cases are a given.” Almost half said boys don’t share household shores, especially in Africa, which takes time away from studying. An Egyptian girl said, “We are burdened with all household tasks. After marriage, we work even more.” A Bangladeshi girl asked about her gender, “What is the use of showing them respect; they are good for nothing?” These factors lead to girls dropping out of school although girls said their parents supported their education. A Moroccan girl observed, “Though we are girls, we have dreams and hobbies, and we want to achieve goals, but we don’t find help that can lead us to fulfill these dreams.”
[i] “Hear Our Voices Report,” Plan International, October 2014.
A 2012 Gallup poll of Arab women and men reported they had similar views on many issues, such as most supported girls’ right to education. However, women were more likely to support a woman’s right to divorce and work outside the home—except in Syria. Thus, MENA women’s progress into the workforce remains very slow with one of the lowest rates in the world (about 25% of women are employed), along with low representation in government. Religion isn’t the main determinant of attitudes towards women’s rights as economic class is more influential, specially job and education. A troubled economy is more damaging to women’s rights than religious beliefs and respondents were less satisfied with their standard of living after the Arab uprisings. People who favor Islamic parties as likely as supporters of liberal parties to believe in women’s rights including employment and divorce. Men and women are as likely to support Islamic parties. Most Arabs of both sexes want some governmental role for Sharia law, especially in Yemen. Tunisian women express high support for gender equality as well as considering themselves more spiritual than their male peers. They are much more likely than men to believe that women have the right to initiate divorce. Yemen is the only country where men are more religious than women. The poll indicates that the main way to encourage gender equality is to develop the economy.
“After the Arab Uprisings: Women on Rights, Religion and Rebuilding,” Gallup Poll, Summer 2012.
Global attention to young women’s issues and activism was ignited by Malala Yousafzai’s advocacy of education for Pakistani girls, protests against the gang rape of New Delhi student who fought back referred to as Braveheart, “Bring Back Our Girls” protests against kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram, the murder of hundreds of girls and women in northern Mexico and indigenous girls in Canada, global SlutWalks, Take Back the Night marches, and young women’s leadership in the Arab Spring.
Who would you add?
Defying cultural taboos, women in Sana’a rode bicycles as a solution to petrol shortages and demanding the right to movement. This cause a fury of emotions, with many supporters, and some opposed to this initiative.