How can we ensure children and youth are changemakers and play a key role in building more inclusive and equitable societies?
Children and youth represent a significant percentage of the population, but in many places where we work they face barriers to participation. In their communities, many children and youth must confront discriminatory and exclusionary attitudes, behaviours and practices. Many do not see a future for themselves due to a lack of opportunities and limited access to quality education. Many feel their voices are not heard.
In 2016-2017, Equitas engaged and supported children and youth through human rights education to strengthen their leadership skills and initiate actions for change they want to see in their communities. Their energy, motivation and optimism, creative way of thinking, resourcefulness and capacity to challenge existing norms means they are making their place as social innovators in communities!
In Tunisia, youth leaders met with representatives of the Ministry of Labor and addressed the right to work for people living with disabilities. Youth leaders in Jordan worked closely with a school principal to reduce violence and bullying in Jabel al Nadeef in East Amman. Similarly, youth leaders in Yemen conducted a campaign to counter school dropouts in two schools in Sana’a. In Morocco, youth leaders sent hundreds of post cards to the Ministry of Justice calling for measures to be taken to end early marriage. In Upper Egypt, youth leaders addressed the issue of poor health services in two hospitals with local authorities. This year, across the Middle East and North Africa, youth engaged with Equitas were catalysts for change!
In Colombia, 440 community members established an intergenerational exchange between youth and adults to discuss greater respect of human rights and the right of youth to participate in shaping the future of their communities. These actions reached over 1,000 children and youth.
“When I am invited to these kind of activities, I rarely have a chance to express myself, and when I do, those who do not share my point of view usually respond in a confrontational way. These activities haven’t been like that. I have had an opportunity to express myself with confidence and freely, and without being aggressively challenged by those who disagree with me”. – Youth, Colombia
“I realized that I was excluding some members of my community – children and youth – from my own processes. Before this project, I hadn’t had a chance to share with them and appreciate the value of their ideas and opinions. I don’t want to exclude them anymore”. – Community member, Colombia
In Canada, we create space for dialogue and youth leadership in over 45 communities.
Engaging children and youth to play an active role in their communities is one of the most effective ways to tackle issues such as bullying, racism, homophobia and sexism, and build more welcoming and inclusive communities. That is why building children and youth’s capacity as leaders of change is so critical.
This year, more than 100,000 children and youth participated in Equitas programs, deepening their understanding of inequality and discrimination, and defining how they would like to come together to take action.
Here’s what they said about making a bigger impact:
“In this training, I gained a lot more than I originally expected, from the leadership skills to knowledge, networking, and facilitation skills. The opportunity to participate and be included was great.” Youth Changemaker, Winnipeg
“There is no limit to our Community Action Projects when we have full support from others.” – Youth Changemaker, Victoria
“Inclusion was the key word. Indigenous youth finally had a place to meet other youth that are living the same sociopolitical aspects of being natives in Montreal.” – Youth worker, Montreal
“It is not only our organization and community that is motivated to see a positive change. It is something that is felt across Canada” – Youth Worker, Winnipeg
What they say
“Our theatre play presented important issues in a humorous way. The mothers who attended commended us on helping them become more aware of the negative consequences of early marriage on the health of their daughters.”
– Maha, youth participant in Morocco (February 2016)
“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)
Equitas – a leader in programs for children and youth
- British Columbia Multicultural Award (2016) in recognition of our work building welcoming and inclusive communities in B.C. and across Canada.
- Tri-Cities award (2015) for Play it Fair! B.C.
- Equitas was awarded the Quebec Human Rights Commission Rights and Freedoms prize (2014) for its work with children and youth.
- Trailblazer award (2014) from the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of the Child
- Received Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s Award of Excellence (2012) for engaging youth in the fight against inequality, exclusion and racism through its Speaking Rights program in Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
- Awarded the Prix de la citoyenneté Ann Greenup (2009) recognizing exceptional efforts in the struggle against racism in Québec
- Awarded Honorable mention, Award of Excellence in Anti-Racism in Canada (2008) by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation
- Recognized as a best practice in “A Compendium of Good Practice: Human Rights Education in the School Systems of Europe, Central Asia and North America” by the Council of Europe, OSCE ODIHR, UN OHCHR and UNESCO and the Good Ideas in Integration on the Cities in Migration website.