The Basis of Young People Insight: Empowering Youth Voice

Empowering the voices of young people is vital in a time when it feels as if their say means nothing.

There are young individuals who will give up on trying to have their say altogether, going along with what they are told or staying in the box they’ve been put into, but hating it all the same.  However, I’m refusing to give up on these individuals and I am determined to empower the voices of young people, because what we say matters, and more importantly, we matter.

As a young person, I haven’t always felt like my voice mattered and that I am unable to express what I actually want to say, because of the environment and society I’ve grown up in.  Now I am able to see how ridiculous and unfair that is, particularly in a society that is always banging on at us to mature and grow up, telling us to act more like adults when we reach a certain age, but still treating us like children.

This needs to stop now.  Young people deserve to be treated with the same respect as their elders, particularly as a large portion of young people are actually adults themselves (I’m talking about you, 18-25 year olds).  Although the youth are not perfect, they are intelligent, special individuals bursting with potential and a ton of great things to say – if only more people would take the time to listen.

This is where Young People Insight comes in.  Through Young People Insight, I want to empower the voices of youth through a simple platform, allowing them to share their thoughts, opinions or stories on this blog or during one of the forums that will be running through the course of the year.  It is about getting a deeper insight into young people and sharing the stories that we don’t get to read.

Copyright © 2015 Shaniqua Benjamin. All rights reserved. This work is registered with the UK Copyright Service: Registration No: 284688886
Copyright © 2015 Shaniqua Benjamin. All rights reserved.
This work is registered with the UK Copyright Service: Registration No: 284688886

I hope this will let the youth know that someone is listening, that someone does care and that someone is willing to give them the chance to say what they have to say.

I’ve already made a start, creating a short film with Fixers so that young people have a visual tool to get them thinking, and last week I held my first youth forum for anyone aged 16-25.  I plan on holding these forums on the third Tuesday of every month at Project B in Croydon Town Centre, giving young people the opportunity to discuss various subjects that matter to them.

However, it doesn’t stop there.  Young People Insight is not only about empowering the voices of young people, but empowering them to make a change through the power of their voices.  It is possible for young people to make real changes and if we all come together to be the change we want to see, I believe we can do something amazing.  I also believe that it will contribute to changing the perception of my hometown of Croydon, which makes it all the more special to me.

A key thing for me is to not discriminate; however, I will stress the importance of working with the harder to reach groups – the young offenders, those in care, the homeless, the individuals who are unemployed and not in education or training, those who may be selling drugs.  They have just as many things to say and great stories to tell.

Over the course of the future, it is my plan to put on workshops run by other organisations and have speakers that will motivate and inspire young people to be more and do more.  I want to hold social events that will bridge the gaps in the community, develop meaningful relationships and hopefully build the respect that seems to have gotten lost.

I also want to put on collaborative events, so that organisations in the borough can come together, which was of high importance to most of the young people who were involved in the forum last week.  I think that so much more could be achieved if we worked together and mended the breakdown in communication, which tends to be a problem in Croydon.  It would also be great to see young people putting on events themselves, particularly creative events, which would create an amazing buzz in the borough.

Whenever any young person is thinking about “the place to be” or somewhere that cares about their young people, I want it to be Croydon that comes to mind.  I hope Young People Insight will have a part to play in making that a reality, but it won’t work without your involvement, your enthusiasm and most importantly, your voice.

Get involved with Young People Insight in any way you can.  Write something (or even film something) for the blog – share your story, write a short opinion post or share some poetry.  Come to the forums, where you can contribute to live discussions and meet new people over some food.  It could even be as small as sharing one of our posts on social media – as Tesco says, every little helps.

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As a young person, I know that young people have amazing things to say and there is a lot more to us than people give us credit for.  We need to stop letting others label us and ensure that we tell our truth in the way that we want.

It all starts with our voice, which can continue to pave the way, but we have to decide whether we will use our voices for good or allow our voices to be silenced.  I for one, refuse to be silenced anymore.

Keep up to date with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter or liking the Facebook page, Young People Insight.  For further information, email me at shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk

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