Be The Change

 It is not about what you have or don’t have its how you use what’s in your hands. – Christopher Barlett (SEED)

In order to mobilise people and peruse a better future for the coming generations, the youth of today need to lead by example.

In the grand scheme of things, age is just a number. So should an amazing leader be discounted just because of their age? If they are effective communicators, have the ability to challenge the status quo (Meadows, 2009) and make change, why would you restrict them? Leadership is not merely a role, but it is standing up for the greater good and the wider community and our youth are just as capable as anyone to solve today’s complex problems.

One of these world issues where youth is both affected the most and have the most influence is the problem surrounding HIV (the increasing prevalence of this problem is discussed in the Ted Talk above). Youth-LEAD is a organisation that works with young people, aged 14 to 25, who are either directly affected by HIV or at high risk of HIV infection. Youth-LEAD fights against discrimination and ensures young people’s human rights are respected by empowering them via participation and leadership.

“Ryan Wayne White (December 6, 1971 – April 8, 1990) was an American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana, who became a national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States, after being expelled from middle school in 1984 because of his infection. As a hemophiliac, he became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment. Doctors said he posed no risk to other students, but HIV was poorly understood at the time, and when White tried to return to school, many parents and teachers in Kokomo rallied against his attendance. This was 29 years ago.” (Youth-LEAD)

(c) Art For AIDS International

Some might think that this story is redundant, that society has evolved, learned from our mistakes and moved on from the irrational fears surrounding HIV. However, sadly for most people affected or at risk of being affected by HIV, the opposite still stands.

The primary problem is the stigma and discrimination that surrounds HIV/AIDS despite the fact that each day 3000 young people are infected with HIV.

HIV positive people are often victims of;

  • being expelled from schools
  • being turned away from healthcare services
  • being refused employment or entry into a foreign country
  • being isolated from their friends and colleagues
  • being rejected by their own families

“Sometimes we get abandoned by our families, we don’t get to go home and we have to live by ourselves. So we don’t have enough money to start on our own.” – Anonymous young female, Philippines (Youth-LEAD)

The best way to tackle youth based problems is with youth themselves leading the change. If you really want to affect change, you need to be part of the actual change, you can’t just watch (Yap Soo Huey). Furthermore , youth can better understand, connect and counsel with people who are similar to their age.

These days it can be harder to grow up due to the early and constant exposure of sexualisation, terrorism and world problems. However youth are extremely resilient and effective communicators that are great at both ‘informing and inspiring people’ (Church, 2013) through the use of balancing the ‘head and the heart’ (Church, 2013) whilst being able to pump up their audience/following with their zealous energy. Whilst the youth do embody this energy, it can also be their downfall – sometimes the younger generations are so keen to be on the dance floor the whole time, have their finger in every pie, trying to save the world from illness, climate change, poverty, food security that they fail to take a balcony approach and get some perspective. (Heifetz et Al., 2009)

If you can’t find a solution to the problem, solve it yourself. – Chris Barlett (SEED)

There is no doubt that today’s generation have a better grasp on technology and social media. It can be used as a way to build credibility, authority and social presence for your leadership action.

So, in reference to the exponential problem regarding HIV in youth and our ability to rapidly spread a message on social media, blow up a condom with your nose or mouth as large as you can, and use the hashtags #ruboutHIV and #youthleadleadership and share it on your social media platforms. If you wish to donate to a youth-led cause please do so at Youth-Lead or Red Aware.

(c) GeekFairy

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” ~ F. D. Roosevelt

We the young people are the future. The youth of today can empower the youth of tomorrow. Youth, be the change. 



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