CPJ's Advocacy Toolkit / Table of Contents
Younger generations should be seen and heard. In fact, they are citizens with rights and responsibilities in Canada, and their unique perspectives should be considered.
The question is: How can younger generations engage in advocacy?
Including the younger generations in advocacy requires responsible discretion, but excluding them from all advocacy activities is not the answer. Empowering them to exercise their rights and responsibilities means creating spaces where they can voice their own concerns and recommendations to decision-makers. This includes advocating on behalf of themselves and on behalf of others.
Advantages of Involving the Younger Generations in Advocacy
- Increases dignity, fairness, and equality for children and youth.
- Adds a new perspective that adults may not have.
- Gives young people ownership of future solutions.
- Increases acceptance of young people as active citizens.
- Allows youth to express themselves as members of society.
- Inspires adults to take action.
- Young people will learn new skills and gain confidence
Involving children in advocacy does not mean they should attend every demonstration or public meeting. The goal is to include the voices of children concerning issues they are passionate about. Parents play an important role in facilitating learning and advocacy for their children. Here are three key suggestions:
- Listen (don’t tell): Try to hear the concerns of children and understand their perspectives.
- Empower (don’t discourage): Validate the concerns and ideas of children. Educate and take action (and learn more) where possible.
- Participate (don’t ignore): Help children advocate. Use some methods from this guide (adapted for age level). Get excited about the potential to make a difference!
|Keep in Mind: The Child’s Mind.
Children are often well suited to analyze their own situations and brainstorm possible solutions for concerns that affect them. They may not be able to draft a policy recommendation, but they understand their own concerns and can engage in other (creative) advocacy activities.
Parents have a key role in helping their children learn about justice and advocacy. This may involve volunteering together, helping your child write a letter to their MP, or drawing pictures in support of a particular policy decision. Advocating does not have to be complicated.
|Keep in Mind: Shannen’s Dream. At age 15, Shannen Koostachin began advocating to the federal government for safe and comfy schools for the kids in Attawapiskat First Nation, Ontario. Her dream became a national movement as children learned about the need for new schools on this reserve. This is the largest movement in Canadian history for children by children. Children can make a difference by advocating and engaging in politics. For more information, visit the “Shannen’s Dream” webpage on the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada website.|
Younger generations are often described as politically apathetic. While there may be some truth to this statement, there are many passionate teens working toward positive change in our society. Teens are often able to be more independent in their advocacy actions than children, but adults still have an important role in empowering their political action.
|Go Deeper: Apathy Is Boring. Apathy is Boring is a Canadian organization that uses art and technology to educate youth about democracy. They envision a Canada where youth are active decision-makers at all levels of the democratic process. Find many helpful resources on their website at apathyisboring.com|
Helping Teens Engage in Advocacy
Many teens are motivated and interested in learning new things. Disengaged youth can be inspired and transformed by knowledgeable and passionate adults participating in advocacy. Be an advocacy role model. Teens are often innovative enough to take charge, but support and guidance can be beneficial. Here are some key questions to help teens begin thinking about
- Where is the problem? (Who is the problem affecting?)
- Why is this happening? (Where can I learn more?)
- What are the impacts of this problem? (What needs to change? What is already happening?)
- What can I do to change this?
- How can I work with others to change this issue? (Who else is working on this?)
|Keep in Mind: A Note for Teens. Think about your schools and community clubs and how you can connect with these groups to gain support for the issue you are interested in. These networks can have a powerful impact.|
|Get Creative Craftivism (craft+activism) is a non-traditional way to draw attention to the policy or issue using artwork. For more information, visit craftivism.com.|
Encouraging younger generations to get involved in political advocacy does not necessarily mean adding completely new activities to the schedule. There are many existing activities and every-day tasks that can be avenues for political action.
For parents: Trying to find new slots of time to participate in advocacy can be difficult with demands of work, school, extra-curricular activities, and so on. However, educating your children about caring for others and the environment can be incorporated into daily activities. Sitting down for your evening meal can be a chance to be thankful for what you have and aware of what others do not. Having “unplugged days” (or hours) can create a space to learn about our dependency on electricity and our impact on the environment. This may lead to further action where you and your children can advocate for positive change. Your children may have ideas for how you can live more justly as a family.
|Keep in Mind: Listening Changes Lives. Eight-year-old Jack asked his family to go an entire year without visiting a grocery store. They agreed! While this may not be direct political advocacy, there are many political implications that can be drawn from their decision. The media attention also created awareness.|
For youth leaders: Your regular events may involve trips to the beach or overnight camping trips. You may also lead food-drives to support the local food bank or used-clothing swaps for the local shelter. These are all good things that could involve political advocacy. While at the beach or in the wilderness, take some time to discuss how our use of the earth’s resources is affecting our environment (this may require the leader to do some research before the trip). While gathering food or clothing donations, organize a follow-up letter writing campaign or a demonstration to advocate for policies that will reduce poverty in Canada.
|Get Creative. Many teens already participate in World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine. Often this fundraising activity requires participants to raise funds for those less fortunate around the world. During this event, youth often enjoy fun physical activities, movie marathons, and everything in-between (all on an empty stomach). This event would be a good opportunity to educate youth on poverty in their own country. Incorporating advocacy activities (group letter writing/creative advocacy/etc.) would allow teens to take both local and global actions towards eradicating poverty. Raising money and fasting for 30 hours are good ways to raise awareness and make a difference, but adding advocacy activities to combat Canada’s poverty concerns could enhance this experience|