Speaking Rights Changemakers: Transforming communities coast to coast to coast Published in 2017 “As participants of the 2017 Speaking Rights Changemakers Forum, we are transforming communities coast to coast to coast. Our collective goals are to: create positive change; ensure that youth voices are heard by decision-makers and community members; encourage diversity; build more inclusive communities; support youth empowerment; take action; increase youth engagement, and to raise awareness of the problems youth face.” Youth leaders and staff from 16 youth-serving organizations across Canada gathered to reflect together on their role as Human Rights Changemakers. “Participation in this forum was crucial to our [Community Action] project! We are going back with endless inspiration and strategies.” – Youth Coordinator Since May 2017, as part of the Equitas’ Speaking Rights program, youth across Canada have been leading community change through human rights-based Community Action Projects that address topics such as reconciliation, discrimination, inclusion of newcomers and refugees, healthy relationships, etc. The Forum was an opportunity to share their successes and challenges and build momentum for a national movement of youth changemakers across the country! Youth reflected on their experiences together: “I learned that there is more that I can do and that everyone in the Forum are all hoping to make a change – we have one same goal.” – Youth Changemaker “I will listen attentively to ideas and always find ways to make a change when I see injustice.” – Youth Changemaker. “I feel that I have the responsibility to spread this knowledge [of reconciliation] to others.” – Youth Changemaker The Speaking Rights Youth Changemakers Forum also provided an opportunity to share the goals of their projects and make recommendations to invited influencers, decision-makers from different levels of government, and other key stakeholders. “Being able to listen to decision-makers has inspired me to make a difference in my community in ways I had not explored before.” – Youth Coordinator “Speaking with decision-makers was empowering and broke the barriers we often feel of us and them.” – Youth Coordinator “The Speaking Rights Youth Forum allowed me to learn that the youth are more active than ever and are providing amazing leadership in the area of advancing human rights.” – Decision-Maker What’s next? Speaking Rights Youth Changemakers Forum are taking their learning back to their community, and they will continue to engage with local decision makers and encourage other youth to be a part of the change they want to see! “I now feel empowered. I truly believe I can make a change in the lives of others.” – Youth Coordinator “No matter what I do in life, business, politics, sport, I will use human right as my basic platform. I will continue to advocate for it.” – Youth Changemaker A note about wellness We believe that an essential part of supporting youth leaders and youth coordinators is taking time to reflect on ways to promote wellness. It is important to take care of ourselves and keep in mind our wellness as leaders in the community by, for example, taking a moment to decompress with Zumba, offering wellness bags to promote self-care and to offer alternative flexible seating, such as standout beanbags. We want to thank Karibu for kindly allowing us to use their beanbags and for making this Youth Forum more accessible and inclusive of all. Equitas’ Speaking Rights program engages youth and youth-serving organizations in more effective communities of practice and collaborative relationships across Canada. All 15 youth-serving organizations who participated in the Youth Forum are key pillars in their communities, mostly serving youth (and other community members) that face increased barriers to participation, such as newcomer, refugees and youth with precarious status, Indigenous youth, girls/young women, LGBTQI2S youth, youth-in-care.