Why we should listen to youth

Women are a powerful force, as individuals and in solidarity.  Do we celebrate the survival skills, accomplishments, dreams, and actions of women under 18?  It is part of my consciousness to challenge adultism (my own included) and it is part of my job.  As the program manager at Powerful Voices, a girl-serving organization in Seattle, I want to engage folks to not devalue or tokenize youth; to listen and give them a platform to be heard.   This is important because they are valuable, active, contributing members of our society that will be running things and making important decisions on behalf of everyone in the not too distant future.

In our society, youth and their incredible activism efforts are not reflected back.   Anti-oppression and organizing workshops should be taught in schools to include young people of all ages to be part of the discussion and solution. Youth are unified as an oppressed group by adults and systems, that perspective is one we need to hear so we don’t continue to silence a large percentage of the population just because they are under 18.  
Utilizing their perspectives through allowing them positions of power and equitable exclusivity will shape solutions and shake up the way we do things.  This is hard for adults because it incites some fear, asks them to change, and requires that they give up some power and control.  But by excluding them, we are disconnecting with current and upcoming issues and needs, we are missing out on their creativity and problem solving skills, and we are not preparing them to be the ethical, compassionate leaders that we yearn for.

When I think about all the young women that have impacted me, I remember their struggles - poverty, neglect, abuse, rape, racism, sexism, homophobia, being sexualized and criminalized at a young age, and forced through systems that make decisions for them.  Then I think about how I am inspired by their ability to write, dance, sing, share, learn, unlearn, mentor, teach, celebrate, laugh, love, fight, cry, listen, grow, want, need, and flourish with so much grace and strength it breaks my heart and mends it back together at the same time.  The young women I know are not ordinary women.  They are extraordinary.


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