[post] The Young Feminist Manifesto challenges the hidden tokenism in the youth sector.
Updated: Apr 21, 2021
"As youth leaders, we have the shared experience of being included in processes because it is seen as the “correct” thing to do – to give a perceived legitimacy to multi-actor processes led by governments and multilateral, global institutions" #YoungFeministManifesto
The Young Feminist Manifesto was published this week and let me say this loud and clear: this is a text I've been waiting for for a long time.
Young Feminist EU logo. More information at: www.youngfeminist.eu
#YoungFeministManifesto offers sobering insiders' perspectives into the problematic power dynamics in the spaces (which are broadly described) as youth-centred or youth-driven. From the evidence of systemic tokenism in youth participation to young people's burnout - the manifesto provides a genuine and critical analysis of the challenges young activists face while delivering [often] voluntary work in the context of global development.
In this post, I will try my briefly outline some elements of the #YoungFeministManifesto. However, if you decide to stop reading now - please do take away this message with you: #YoungFeministManifesto is an essential read for anyone in the youth sector.
The Young Feminist Manifesto was developed by young activists/feminists in the context of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF). As we can read in the text, it "was co-created through a p participative process involving youth-led organizations participating as Action Coalition co-leaders, the Generation Equality Youth Task Force (YTF), young feminists from the global Civil Society Advisory Group (CSAG) and Mexican CSAG as well as the National Gender Youth Activists (NGYAs)".
Although #YoungFeministManifesto refers to specific international youth-centred initiatives, the issues they highlight seem to be quite universal [sad face emoji]. The issues (briefly listed below) resonated with some of the challenges I came accross in my resaerch (for example in the context of youth evaluation).
The young feminists highlight the problematic power hierarchies which are often embedded into the core structure of youth-centred initiatives. For example, they talk about pre-design meeting agendas, meeting format, and their length - all of which are organised following some of the old-school top-down approaches. In the document, we can read that:
"Meetings often include long presentations and at times feel more like being informed or briefed instead of being consulted. Instead of developing content together after an exchange of vision, ideas and suggestions, documents and concepts are being presented and the possibility for feedback given. This leaves youth in a constant reactive state, instead of being able to be proactive or co-creative in the process" (The Young Feminist Manifesto, 2020:16)
The unequal power dynamics lead to a lack of genuine and clear communication between the young activists and organisational representatives. Some projects seem to lack clarity when it comes to young people's roles and their agency (or lack thereof). Young activists seem to operate within complex and kafkaesque networks of power. Striving for meaningful change and overworking (possibly also over-volunteering) to achieve it, young activists end up burnout and demotivated.
"If we are to do impactful work, we need to receive a minimum level of support to do so - otherwise, we are paying to do this work, whether it be internet costs or electricity to connect, and need to be recognized and compensated for our time and expertise. If this continues to not be the case, it will lead to further youth burnouts, disengagement and demotivation, and to perpetuate inequalities, excluding the most marginalized youth and privileging those with most access to resources.(The Young Feminist Manifesto, 2020:17)
When it comes to addressing these issues, young activists outline key areas of consideration for meaning youth-participation in the UN Women's Generation Equality process. These include (1) Youth leadership and co-ownership; (2) Feminist leadership; (3) Intersectionality / intersectional approach; (4) Transformative design and leadership.
I'm unable to give justice to these Young Feminist Manifesto's recommendations in this tiny blog post, so please read the document for more information on what needs to get done to truly involve young people (of all backgrounds) to co-create future decision-making: https://gefyouthmanifesto.wixsite.com/website
For more information about Young Feminist Europe, visit: http://www.youngfeminist.eu/