‘Young People are Not the Leaders of Tomorrow; they are the Leaders of Today’

Another fascinating panel ! Intentional Journalism student Amelia Reynolds listened with interest to the thoughts of Jayanthma Wickramanayake – the UN’s Envoy on Youth.

Speaking at Swansea University’s World Challenges Summit on Tuesday, UN’s Envoy on youth, Jayanthma Wickramanayake’s rallying cry was heard by thousands across the globe. ‘Ordinary people can make extraordinary changes’ said Jayanthma as she discussed engagement in youth politics.

Wickramanayake is the youngest senior official in the UN and uses her position to empower young people to get involved in discussions surrounding their future. There’s more than one route to reform, she stressed, and you don’t have to be an elected official or an activist; people can simply enact change in their daily life. Teachers, parents, artists, friends, can all make a difference, and the opportunities for influence are endless.

Jayanthma was talking to our SKY Scholars

It’s a misconception that young people aren’t interested in politics, Wickramanayake said. There are so many barriers facing youth today, it’s incredibly difficult to get involved in important discussions. She made the point that only 2% of elected parliamentary representatives worldwide are aged under thirty and there is a severe shortage of young voices in global politics. It is imperative that we engage young people in politics, providing fresh perspectives to tackle the root cause of the global challenges we face today.

 For young people, 2021 is one of the most difficult times to grow up, it’s also one of the best. The threats faced by youth today have never been experienced before. The Climate crisis, a pandemic, and the digital revolution. Although difficult, have created an atmosphere for social engagement unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We are now more connected than ever, social media has revolutionised the way we work as a society, giving us instant access to people all over the world, providing a platform for discussion.

Wales is one country that has its own Youth Parliament.

In Wales of course, strides have already been taken to include young people in the Senedd. The Welsh Youth Parliament facilities youth engagement in local politics. People can run for a position, vote, speak on issues important to them and campaign for meaningful change.

Jayanthma’s words really resonate as we attempt to navigate a post-covid world. Now than ever that young voices must be heard in the discussion.