Every year my host organisation, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights awards the RFK Human Rights Awards to individuals defending human rights all over the world.
This year the award was given to 4 youth organisations: March for Our Lives, United We Dream, Color of Change, and The International Indigenous Youth Council. These organisations are on the front lines of fighting against social injustices in communities of color,standing up for indigenous and environmental rights, demanding changes to America’s gun laws and seeking for dignity and justice for immigrants but most impressive is that they are led by young people.
As these young people received their award this year, they all spoke passionately about the need to work together, to not give up and not lose hope. They were not there to ask for permission but they were demanding to be heard, they were unafraid of having tough,uncomfortable conversations and were determined to speak truth to power.
Time and time again, young people all around the world have been instrumental in leading change and we in the civil society need to do better to engage young people and channel their energies to social good. To ignore their voices and continue doing “business as usual” will be to do so at our own peril and big traditional non profits run the risk of being left behind shackled by bureaucracy and inflexibility. As a sector, we must become more agile and innovative in engaging with and responding to this new wave of youth activism and the generation leading it.
I could not help but be inspired by their energy, zeal, passion, authenticity and true belief that they are change agents. If our future lies in the hands of these young people, then maybe,just maybe there is hope for us all.
I was reminded of a saying that a society that does not listen to its young people does not deserve a future. Lets ensure we deserve our future.
About March for Our Lives
March For Our Lives is a non-profit organization created by the current students and alumni of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Rising from the ashes of tragedy, these young adults have sparked a fire in the hearts of every generation in America – specifically the youth, leading the next generation into a new age of political awareness and involvement. The purpose of the group is to fight for common sense gun reform and to communicate the need for a large, educated voter force. With nonpartisan messaging, this organization strives to pass legislation that will safeguard every citizen of our country. These activists will continue to use their platform to make sure each politician has a public stance on this issue leading into the 2018 midterm elections. Victims of all types of gun violence have been unheard for far too long, and March For Our Lives will assure that their stories are spread and remembered. For more information, visit www.marchforourlives.com
About United We Dream
United We Dream (UWD) is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful network made up of over 400,000 members and 48 affiliate organizations across 26 states. UWD’s vision is to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement of young people who organize and advocate at the local and national levels for the dignity and justice of immigrants and communities of color in the United States. The organization stands against sexism, misogyny and male-centered leadership while uplifting womxn leaders and the leadership of LGBTQ people, and works to make our spaces accessible to people of all abilities and seek to stand in solidarity and partnership with all who share our values. For more information, visit: https://unitedwedream.org/
About Color of Change
Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. As a national online force driven by over one million members, Color of Change moves decision makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America. The organization our members to take action on crucial issues—from criminal justice to media representations to the social safety net and voter freedom—as a means of building the power necessary to transform the written and unwritten rules of society. Color of Change’s work – both rapid response and long-term campaigns for change – amplifies the voices of Black folks and our allies, building power and delivering meaningful wins that create consequences for racial injustice and build momentum for implementing solutions that move Black people and all people forward. For more information, visit: www.colorofchange.org/.
About The International Indigenous Youth Council
The International Indigenous Youth Council (IIYC) is an organization that was started and led by womxn and two-spirit peoples during the Standing Rock Indigenous Uprising of 2016, while peacefully protecting the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The organization has extended its reach by establishing chapters across Turtle Island, including Chicago, Denver, Texas (Yanaguana Chapter), New Mexico, and South Dakota. IIYC is rooted in the protection of the elements and has been brought together and continues to be guided by the prayer for the water. IIYC aspires to inspire young individuals to build bridges of solidarity and become leaders of their communities. For more information, visit: https://indigenousyouth.org/.