In honor of International Youth Day, CIPE and Atlas Corps co-hosted a series of TwitterChats revolving around issues youth are facing around the world. In the first discussion Seif El Khawanky, a youth activist from Egypt, and several winners of CIPE’s youth essay contest offered insight into the role youth can play in democracy building. The general consensus was that youth involvement needs to go beyond participating in elections. While voting is an integral part of democracy, as Seif stated, “change needs a sustained youth presence.”
When asked what else youth can do Risaka Mirzalina stated that in addition to participating in civil society or developing community development projects, “entrepreneurship [is another] example of democracy building.” When youth become entrepreneurs, they have a stake in the way their countries are run and contribute to economic growth, which gives them a voice that elected officials will take seriously. Young entrepreneurs are also key to consolidating democratic gains in transitioning societies. After all, the root of the Arab Spring was economic in nature. Youth who enter the free market are well positioned to decrease economic exclusion and contribute to the overall development of their country.
Entrepreneurship, important though it is, will not always immediately emerge. In many countries the institutions that govern society must be changed as they do not account for the aspirations of the youth population. Kirsten Han lamented the fact that in Singapore, the deference given to elders has prevented many youth from striking out on their own and following their ambitions. Another participant added to this, saying that youth are often steered “into paths that don’t fit them.” These and other obstacles are the results of the underlying institutions of society. Continue reading ‘#YouthChange’ »