We care about your hopes and dreams, …nah, just kidding, sit yo ass down!

The title of this entry is a little dramatic but, it sums up how I felt after an event I attended a few days ago.

I won’t say which, but it was geared towards young women. And their dreams and desires for the future. It all looks wonderful in writing and having attended an event in the last year, I was all for it and encouraged a lot of young women I work with to attend.

BIG FAT MISTAKE.

I walked away a little shocked and embarrassed that I took people there in the first place.

Let’s backtrack, in any initiative or activity where you want to promote youth engagement, there are some things that organisations need to know:

  1. If you want youth engagement, make it Youth Engagement.
  2. SAFE SPACE. This is so so so very important. Youth need to know that they are in a safe space where they can speak without judgement or fear.
  3. Their views need to be respected. Or at least heard – before yet another older person shoots them down.
  4. Ownership: Youth need to be given a chance to take pride in their contribution and take ownership.
  5. In doing so, you will empower young people to speak up and engage.
  6. By all means Lead them,they need guidance, but what I saw was young women being channelled down a hollow path
  7. Clarify your purpose, your objectives and stick to you.
  8. Negativity. Leave it out the door.
  9. Make an effort to know or have some understanding of the work they live in.

At the event I attended, several brilliant young women were invited to speak. Despite the daunting task of addressing a crowd of strange older women, they stepped up and shared their hopes, dream and plans for the future. Several were emotive about their journeys. All of them were wonderful.

What followed after was rather embarrassing:

One  attendee QUESTIONED them for not wanting to be the Prime Minister of NZ, sneering at their low goals of being lawyers and engineers. Those are a waste of time, she bellowed. She then went on to share her sad story about her distrust with religion, which I accept, but in the process, she undermined the voices of those who spoke so humbly of their beliefs.

Another attendee then ‘lectured’ them to change their mindset. And another asked loudly, “What is this obsession with phones and facebook and all that”

A Member of Parliament who I was very much looked forward to hearing, got up and started rambling about her parliamentary group that have travelled to the Pacific – who want more Pacific women in their respective Parliaments and then, she was done. I thought she was going to speak to the topic or inspire the young women. zzz.

As the day wore on, the young women simply stopped contributing and several were coerced to speak up! It was clear that they were not in a safe space where they can speak and their contribution was not fully appreciated.

Overall, disappointment.

Thankfully, we had an event immediately after where it was organised by youth for youth, run with finesse and a very clear purpose – the change in atmosphere restored my faith that day.

Phew!

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