Children and Youth Leading the Change the World Needs
Equitas develops educational programs to promote respect for human rights in Canada and around the world. These programs are carried out by agents of change who are mindful of justice and equality for all. Children and young people are at the heart of the changes happening in their communities; they, therefore, play a crucial role as dynamic actors rather than passive addressees. Whether in Canada or elsewhere in the world, children and youth prove that if we believe in their potential and offer them the right tools, they can become real leaders who bring about real change. This year, Equitas promoted the participation of children and youth by helping them to become more aware of their rights and to encourage decision-makers to act for sustainable change.
Ten years of collaboration with youth in Canada
This year, 1 200 000 children and youth in Canada, 255 000 of which were in Quebec, were sensitized by Equitas’ Speaking Rights and Play it Fair! programs. Thanks to these initiatives, children and youths learn about their rights and values such as inclusion, respect, and diversity while also developing their self-expression, self-confidence, and teamworking skills.
Equitas collaborates with youth and the organizations that represent them in Canada through the Speaking Rights program, which reinforces young people’s ability to promote respect for human rights through participatory activities and Community Action Projects (CAPs). In 2020, Speaking Rights celebrated its 10th anniversary. In its 10 years of operation, the program has enabled youth to conduct over 150 PACs across Canada.
To complete a CAP, youth first determine what the major issues are in their community. Then, with the help of our resources and tools, they identify solutions to address these issues, which they then implement themselves. This year, 20 CAPs were carried out by young people in 20 communities throughout Canada.
In the context of a CAP, many groups of young people around the country decided to tackle the issue of racism in their communities. For example, in Alberta, young newcomers of the Saamis Immigration Services Association decided to fight against racism, bullying, and stereotypes about immigrants. These youth not only led numerous awareness-building and educational initiatives in their communities but also initiated dialogue about these issues with community decision-makers, including municipal councillors and even members of the police force. These young people are tomorrow’s true leaders!
In Montreal, Equitas supported the participation of youth from Native Montreal in the city’s consultation regarding systemic racism and discrimination. Our team co-facilitated a workshop with Native Montreal during which young people shared their experiences of racism and discrimination and showed how these issues are inextricably linked to others such as classism, poverty, bullying, homophobia, mental health, and ableism. The young people who participated in this consultation then proposed numerous concrete solutions for tackling these problems.
“Being in this safe space and having outside organizations such as Equitas as allies, really helped me boost my confidence in this project. In addition, this experience has taught me the importance of youth creating opportunities for other youth and viewing each other as a community!”
– Speaking Rights participant from Toronto
“ Thanks to our project, my peers and I are better informed and more aware of citizen initiatives to combat racism. Also, we started a conversation on racism and exchanged our points of view.”
–Young participant, Montreal
“We are still showing the video and sharing it with the community. A lot of the time the youth in the video are recognized and are the go-to youth for others when they need help or resources [on mental health] … Our video was shown to our leaders and our Executive Director who then took it to show in Switzerland at a conference about violence against Aboriginal women.”
– Coordinator of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Equitas partner working with Indigenous youth in Winnipeg, Canada (May 2016)