|Malala Yousafzai (left) and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.
In the 11th century Peter the Hermit regaled against the young:
“The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no respect for their parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they alone know everything and what passes for wisdom in us foolishness in them. As for the girls, they are foolish and immodest and unwomanly in speech, behaviour, and dress.”Doesn’t that sound familiar – yet it was said one thousand years ago.
The sad aspect of this unfair complaint is that young people are dismissed and not listened to. Yet, young people, all over the world, are inspiring us with their dreams and their desire for a more just, fairer world.
Two Well Known Young People
Most of us by now will have heard of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban at just 15 years of age, because she spoke out about the injustice of girls not receiving an education. Miraculously, Malala survived and went on to become a global spokesperson for the rights of girls and women everywhere to receive an education. In 2014 she was nominated, for the second time, for the Nobel Peace Prize, this time winning it – becoming the youngest person to ever receive that award.
In April this year (2017) Malala was appointed as a U.N. Messenger of Peace to promote girls education. The appointment is the highest honour given by the United Nations for an initial period of two years. Recently Malala announced that she has been accepted by Oxford University to study philosophy, politics and economics.
Perhaps also, the name Xiuhtezcatl Martinez may be known. Xiuhtezcatl is an indigenous environmental activist who has been speaking about environmental matters since he was six years old. Now aged 17, Xiuhtezcatl has spoken at the Rio UN Summit as well as the UN General Assembly, He is the youth director of Earth Guardians, a world-wide movement of young people dedicated to growing a resilient leadership co-creating a future they know is possible.
Many Many More
There an many many more young people the world over who defy the myth that young people think of nothing but themselves. Here are just a few of them:
At just 11 years old, in 2004, Kendall Ciesemier, founded Kids Caring 4 Kids, an organisation of young people in the US who raise money for clean water, healthcare, and education in sub-Saharan Africa.
Valens Ntamushobora is a young Rwandan man who founded LUSA (Let Us Stay Alive) to help young women who are mothers, not in school, or living on the streets. Now with over 300 member cooperatives, LUSA provides access to land, seeds and future for young women.
NETwork Against Malaria was founded by Madelyn McGlynn when still a teenager, It’s purpose is to supply bed nets in Uganda to help stop the spread of malaria. With over 35,000 volunteers, the organisation has provided around 12,000 nets, potentially saving the lives of 35,000 people.
When the Gulf oil sill occurred in 2010, 11 year old Olivia Bouler wept for the plight of the birds of the gulf. By using her paintings, Olivia raised $200,000 towards Gulf recovery within a year. Her book, Olivia’s Birds, a collection of her paintings, helps to raise funds for ongoing recovery.
Kyle Weiss is one of the founders of FUNDaFIELD, an organisation that builds soccer fields in Africa in places where young people. In 2006, at the Soccer World Cup, Kyle met soccer fans from Africa and discovered how the game helped to break down barriers. The following year, he and his brother set up FUNDaFIELD. He is fond of quoting Nelson Mandela, especially “sport has the power to change the world.”
Young people are inspiring, and they are challenging those of us in the older generations to listen. Instead of thinking that young people have no respect for their parents or old age, let us, their parents and those of older age, find some respect for young people. They are worth listening to.