Should youth workers engage young people in politics

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By Sam Long:

Youth work and politics? Do the two mix?

In this article we explore some of the positives and negatives of the subject politics.

Time and time again I hear I am not into politics by youth workers. On the flip side I also hear youth workers say we should engage young people in politics in order for young people to positively make decisions and understand the issues which affect them. If your one of those youth workers who’s been around will understand that youth work is political with a small “p”. We like it or not we are stuck with it.

As youth workers our role is to enable young people to make positive choices and informed decisions, which benefits them. It could be an issue, which has been, highlighted through discussions with your young people, such as lack of facilities, teenage pregnancy, anti social behavior, gangs.

As a result of this young people become more active which leads to involvement in taking part in meetings, discussions, debates in the issues directly affecting them. Through this process young people gain valuable life skills, which enables them to become active citizens.

Encouraging young people to engage in politics is a good thing as this enables them to air their voice and opinions to be heard at the right place. Youth workers role will be to facilitate and encourage debates, which focuses on solutions to any issues or problems.

On the negative side of politics would be that there are people who will abuse the power and trust they have with young people for their own gains. This could be a range of things like influencing young people to support a political party at a local level. Taking young people to demonstrations, events which young people don’t have any interests or benefits them in any way at all.

What I can see that more young people are becoming interested in politics thus being more politicized and prepared to fight injustice or tackle any issues locally.

I can also see that youth services are playing an active role in developing strategies in involving young people to be more involved. Some youth services have their own involvement team/participation team. Other Local Authorities (LA) have their own elected young mayor.

Personally I think youth workers should play an active role in engaging young people in politics. Young people should have the appropriate platforms for them to actively air their opinions and concerns. Youth worker should create a safe environment which I believe is very important in order to safe guard young people from being manipulated for individual gains and not for the greater good in society.

Some tips and ideas which you may want to deliver in your own youth clubs. These can range from:

  1. Developing a youth forum
  2. Interviewing a local politician/invite them to come and visit your youth club and young people
  3. Writing a blogg concerning local issues
  4. Developing a e-magazine
  5. Creating a debating session
  6. Discussion on the main political parties/explore what policies they in regards to young people.

The above are some ideas to get you going this by no means is the only activities you can organize. Speak with your young people get suggestions and ideas you will be amazed by the suggestions young people will come out with.

So when it come comes to engaging young people in politics there are positive and negative aspect of it. We as youth workers must be aware on how we engage them and what issues or concerns we are fighting for.

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