OPINION: Why Advocacy by Young People is Important Written by Kaif, Youth Advisory Group Member. In recent years, more and more young people are raising their voices on issues that matter to them and their peers. Think of – School Strike 4 Climate Change, March for Our Lives 2018, and The #NoDAPL Movement. That was all driven by young people. We have realised that our voices matter and we want others to hear them. For far too long, we have watched those in power (who are of a different generation, gender, religion etc.) make decisions that directly affect us without actually considering our views or aspirations. Now, we are not afraid to call out the wrong and to demand change. For over a decade I have been a part of my school advisory groups, my school’s representative council, and various youth advisory groups throughout Melbourne. I have first-hand experience in advocacy and want to affect real change. However, despite my lengthy experience, I still find myself being afraid to speak about many issues that I am passionate about and are personally affected by. As a person of colour and someone who belongs to a minority group, I am afraid to call out behaviours and actions that are directly affecting me and my community. But where does this fear come from and why?! To be honest, I could not give you one answer, because there are various, multi-layered factors that contribute to this fear. But let me call out a few: A fear of judgment and how people are likely going to treat me differently because I spoke out? The desire to please others and make sure no one else is hurt by my sentiments. Which, in reality, is not a very practical concept and people are still getting hurt by me not advocating for them. And finally, the fear of rejection and how some people might not share my passion for a particular issue and will immediately turn it down. I have been fortunate enough to have been given various platforms over the years to express myself without judgment. Many of the organisations that I have collaborated with have fostered a safe and welcoming environment and empowered me with the tools to succeed. However, this is not the case for many young people. We need more young people advocating on issues that affect us right now to make sure that the next generation of young people do not have to continue fighting for these very same issues we are fighting for right now. Here are some ways we, as young people, can help other young people in their advocacy journey: Provide young people with opportunities to engage with advocacy from an early age Provide adequate training in advocacy and public speaking Allow for opportunities for meaningful engagement – consult young people about their ideas and consider their views when making decisions (especially when it directly affects them) Provide a safe, encouraging, inclusive, diverse environment If you would like more information on Youth Advocacy or would like to join our Youth Advisory Group (YAG) please click here. This article is part of our youth-led content series created by young people on our Youth Advisory Group, for young people. This content series explores all sorts of issues impacting and inspiring young people across Melbourne’s northern and western regions. Content creators are sponsored through the Victorian Government’s Engage program.