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Young People's Right to Participation Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Ryan Silverio, Philippines Nov 13, 2002
Human Rights   Opinions
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It is worth affirming the importance of young people in creating change. Various events in our history have witnessed this from the anti-dictatorship movement in the 70’s, to EDSA 1 and EDSA 2. These events have proven that young people are powerful catalysts for change. Many of these events would come as long as young people would continue to value their participation in society.

In the area of human rights advocacy, young people are always at the forefront of the struggle be it in the Philippines and in other countries. For example in Burma, thousands of student activists have sacrificed their lives trying to topple the military dictatorship, ending up either political prisoners or refugees. Here in the Philippines, various issues are being responded to by young activists. These issues range from the lack of access to quality education, globalization, child soldiers, violence against women and girls, discrimination and so on and so forth. Be it through direct actions, lobbying and human rights education, young people are gradually becoming important actors who are playing roles in varying levels.

But one thing is missing. While we address so many social issues, we tend to forget or alienate issues that directly affect us young people as a sector. And one of which is our right to participation.

Why The Need to Encourage Young People to Participate?
Young people like us are exposed to various problems, human rights violations specifically. These include the concerns mentioned previously. One commonality among those issues is that we young people are victims or potential victims. As victims, most institutions provide us with so many interventions from relief to psychosocial help to legal assistance. Thus, we all end up as beneficiaries of both government and even non-governmental organizations.

As a young human rights activist, it is my continuous advocacy to let other young people and even institutions realize that we are stakeholders. Being stakeholders, we have the capacity to identify, plan and implement interventions for our benefit. We should no longer be on the receiving end; we have to act for ourselves. “Youth problems addressed by youth actors.” This is the unwavering battle cry of HRYAN.

On the other hand, our participation is important because we benefit from it. It is sheer hypocrisy on our part if we do not think of our own interest every time we get involved in any endeavor. Yes we do not have any financial gains out of activism. But non-material benefits that will contribute to our overall development as a person overweigh this.

What do we benefit?

1. Develop as sense of social responsibility and self-fulfillment.
2. Broadened perspectives. Through getting involved in activism, we dialogue with other young people who could even have opposing viewpoints. This would eventually help us to become tolerant and open minded. Of course, the more we get exposed to other ideas the meatier our own knowledge base would become.
3. Capacity building. We could acquire new skills such as conflict resolution, lobbying, research, training and even project management. Who knows, this may even lead to a golden gate of career (even political) opportunities and advancement in the future!
4. Empowerment. Need I explain this?

Furthermore, by participating we exercise one major human right that has been unarticulated for so long. Our participation is our human right. It is a more legitimate reason compare to the “Jose Rizal-ish” clichés.

Clarifying Some Concepts: Human Rights Framework for Participation

Many United Nations conventions stress people’s participation without discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, class and, of course, AGE. For example is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: The right to vote, freedom of expression, the right to join associations, the right to be informed, the right to contribute to the development of oneself, his/her community, country and the entire world. These are clearly stipulated in that convention.

Another is the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The following are salient provisions that legitimize our participation.

Article 12: “The right of the child who is capable of forming his or her own views, to express those views freely in all matters concerning him or herself, with those views being given weight depending on the age and maturity of the child.”

Article 13: “The right to obtain and make known information and to express his or her views unless this would violate the rights of others.”

Article 15: “The right to meet up with others and to join or set up associations, unless the fact of doing so violates the rights of others.”

Basically, this tells us that we have the right to be informed. And based on such information we have the freedom to analyze and come up with our own perspective and that we can express freely our own opinions and organize ourselves to further our opinions. Societies and institution have the responsibility to listen and consider our perspectives. But of course, our efforts should always be intended for our benefit and the benefit of others.

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Ryan Silverio

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wonderful &informative article
john garnett | Sep 1st, 2003
keep up the good work

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