Every year on 16 June, South Africa celebrates Youth Day, honouring the student and youth uprisings that profoundly changed the socio-political landscape of South Africa. Celebrating this day gives us the opportunity to look back, to remember where we have come from and what we have been fighting for.
After more than a year of battling with the Covid-19 pandemic, where national lockdowns and restrictions have reshaped the normality of our lives, we now have the opportunity to not only reflect on our past, but also look forward, to reflect on where we are going and what we still need to fight for.
To do this, a group of over 150 young people between the ages of 14 and 24 years, from across South Africa, came together to write the ‘Reimagine our Future Declaration’. The process began in November 2020 through a series of virtual workshops run with UNICEF and continued into 2021 with youth-led negotiations, dialogues and drafting sessions. This declaration, which includes economic, environmental and social considerations, sets out the vision that young people have for their future. They envision a future that is conducive to the growth and prosperity of all young people, where they are active participants in policy and decision-making spaces, and where their voices are acknowledged as legitimate stakeholders. They envision a future with a climate resilient society, where basic needs are met, education is free, decolonised and equal, and issues of inequality and intersectionality are addressed.
By writing such a declaration, youth are demonstrating a new reality: they are not just the leaders of tomorrow, youth are leading today.
This declaration lays the foundation for a new normal, a new future, where we build back better and greener and more equitably for all society. It is intended to start a conversation about the kind of society we want to create, and we will be hosting a series of intergenerational dialogues over the coming weeks to continue re-imagining our future.
So, as we celebrate Youth Month, let us not only look back. Let us look forward and take the next step in making our imagined future a reality.
The declaration process, workshops and youth dialogues were made possible with the support of UNICEF South Africa and the Australian Volunteers Programme. For more information, contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research by Youth@SAIIA