Friday 6 December, 2019

Growing trend of youth change-makers in the Caribbean

“Doctor!” “Lawyer!” “Policeman!” These are some of the traditional responses given by children when they are asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

But with the current movement in global citizenship and its disruptive impact on the younger generation, don’t be surprised if your little one proclaims “activist” or “revolutionary” the next time they are asked to declare their career ambitions.  

Caribbean youth activism is not new, but the emergence of the latest crop of younger change-makers in our region is definitely something to write home about. 

Several months ago, children in Cayman assembled on the steps of the Government Administration Building with signs and placards, protesting on behalf of marine protection and a ban on single use plastics.  

More recently, another local youth group asserted their might as advocates through the Protect Our Future campaign, communicating their disagreement with Cayman’s controversial port project through protests, interviews and social media. Is there a drinking fountain for young change-makers in Cayman? 

And a hop across the ocean to Jamaica, Ngozi and Tafari, 7-year-old twins and change-makers in their own right, received a viral reception on social media for making history in a first ever youth address on the growing rise of violence against children in the Jamaican House of Parliament. 

Children are not only the leaders of tomorrow, they might very well be the leaders of today. Our youth are recognizing that all of the issues facing our region affect them as well. If we truly want them to be global citizens, then we should nurture the development of their social awareness and responsibility - we should allow them to have a voice.

So here are six ways that parents can support and empower their children who have strong opinions on social issues and are showing signs of being change makers, leaders or even revolutionaries. 

Listen

It is tempting to treat kids like kids, but children, despite their age, frequently know what is going on. Young change makers are aware of injustices and may have a lot on their minds and a lot to say. Parents are usually the first sounding board for young change makers, so take an interest in their position and do not miss a bonding opportunity by being dismissive.

Research

Whether it is violence, the port issue or climate change, educate yourself on the issue that your child is passionate about. Your understanding of the subject matter will guide you on how to advise your young change maker and it will confirm for them that their opinions and ideas are important. 

Support

After you’ve gauged your change maker’s attitude and opinion towards an issue and have researched the topic at hand, your support is necessary. Parents are usually the first call for backup and support on the frontlines. Be ready. 

Prepare them for Impact (positive and negative)

While they may be developing a passion for an issue, your young change-maker will never know more about life than you. You know how cruel this world can be. Talk to your children about the different sides to each argument and instill a sense of respect and understanding that it is okay to face disagreement. Criticism or a sudden thrust of praise and media scrutiny can be damaging to the self-esteem of some children. Be attentive to the indirect impact of your child’s activism.

Be Vigilant 

If the profile and visibility of your young change maker grows, be extra vigilant of their physical safety. Keep a watchful eye out for anything ranging from eager fans to deranged detractors.

Focused Quality Time 

Spending quality time with your young change maker will not only give you an opportunity to just be a regular parent, but it will also keep you abreast of everything in their world.  Spending time together to discuss important issues might become a cherished part of their lives that they will never forget.

The serious issues that we face in the Caribbean require the emergence of young leaders who confront problems with optimism, an abundance of energy, and a strong understanding of technology. These strengths are an asset no matter what path they choose in life; youth activism can build skills that are essential for traditional careers in the fields of education, politics and law. 

If current trends are a sign of things to come, the Caribbean is in capable hands for the future. 

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