"The young panelist from the event on bringing the voices from young people is following me on twitter! I will facebook that straight away!"
This generation, having grown up with social media and a different vocabulary from the one that was in popular use less than 20 minutes ago (things change fast!), is excited. Being a participant at a UN conference and discovering New York is only one side of the coin. What excited the young delegates at this year's CSW most is the experience of their ideas and views being recognised and treated as important.
Talking about a revolution...
It is a rather new thing that young people are encouraged to take a stand on world politics, and in particular in the new development agenda which is being discussed at the CSW58. In an event hosted by the UK and Australian governments an elderly women gave up her seat in the front row for a young girl:'You should sit here, because you are young. It is important that world leaders see that you are here because you care. They need to hear from you what world you want to see in the future. Sit down, love,' she said.
That recognition is of great value for young people. We are an important voice in any conversation about the future. More importantly though, it is important that older adults realise that young people are also affected by issues like a lack of participation in national or international decison-making and inequality while young people also face problems that are unique to their generation.
There are however also older adults who are fighting for the space they successfully occupied in the last decades. They do not want young people to suddenly be the new voice in fighting poverty and inequality. I think that the reason for this is the mistrust between generations.
At an event on the voices of African women and girls in the post-2015 framework discussions, a young girl from the Gambia stood up and explained to the audience, that it is almost impossible for her to make a decision on her own in everyday life. She said that she has to prove her respect towards the elderly in every situation and hence make them take a decision for her. This social norm is a barrier for her to live a life that she wants and to transform the future actively.
Immediately, two women sitting in front of me, started talking with outrage about the lack of respect young people pay to the experience of older people. 'They want to share their opinion all the time,' they were saying.
Action speaks louder than words
I believe that it is crucial that young people attend events and have conversations about their abilities. We also need to demonstrate that our experiences and views are important contributions to build the world that we want. We need to build bridges amonsgt young people and work towards access to important processes like the post-2015 debate.
In the words of Babatunde Osomtimehin: 'If we want to change the world, we need to change it with all members of society, especially including young women and the youth. If we think they are the critical mass, then let's hear from them.'
Photo: Progressio supporters get together for a campaigning workshop at the 'Fragile States: Phenomenal Women' event, September 2013 (photo © Layton Thompson/Progressio)