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I love it when Ban Ki-Moon said, “The youth are often at the frontline to stand against discrimination, inequality, and marginalization. The youth are a force for transformation”. Internationally, I meet a considerable number of young people who specifically advocate for advancing the rights of a certain marginalized sector. For example, a friend of mine from the Democratic Republic of Congo works to ensure that children and young people in conflict or emergency contexts can access quality education.
The youth are often at the frontline to stand against discrimination, inequality, and marginalization. The youth are a force for transformation.
In the Philippines, specifically in Negros Oriental, the province where I am currently based, I have been interested in and aiming to explore how young people perceive marginalization and inclusion, and what initiatives they have been doing to ensure that marginalized groups are given the opportunities to participate actively in society.
On April 22, 2015, I finally got the chance to realize my aim. The Outstanding Students of the Philippines Alumni Community (TOSP-AC) Region VII organized the BayaniKwentuhan, an event which aims to introduce the finalists of the search for Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP) Region VII through an interactive discussion about a certain issue and to raise awareness in the community about the program. The event’s theme was ‘Inclusivity in Youth Participation for Nation Building’ and focused on the importance of including the marginalized groups within the youth participation agenda.
The event’s theme was ‘Inclusivity in Youth Participation for Nation Building’ and focused on the importance of including the marginalized groups within the youth participation agenda.
Who participated in the event?
One hundred and thirty young people from different academic institutions joined the BayaniKwentuhan event. They came from diverse fields of specialization such as Business Administration, Education, Sciences, and Humanities. The event was also graced by some of the members of the Deaf community in Dumaguete City. “I find the topic relevant and interesting. I think participating in this event will mainstream the voices of the Deaf in the discussion. We also need to be heard”, expressed Noel Canlas, a young Deaf person, when asked about his expectations of the BayaniKwentuhan event.
Which are the marginalized groups in society?
In the event, the participants were asked to identify which they think the marginalized young people or groups are through a collaborative activity. They did identify a significant number of these groups: (1) indigenous people, (2) Persons with Disabilities, (3) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community, (4) juvenile delinquents or youth involved in drug addiction, (5) youth in emergency or conflict situations and, (6) orphans.
It was interesting to note that as the discussions went on, one participant raised the issue that marginalization can also be internal or innate. He added, “Some young people have to struggle with emotional or psychological marginalization. I was born as an illegitimate child in the family. And it was really hard for me to cope with the situation”.
In addition, one participant introduced the concept of contexts of marginalization into the discussion. He stressed that how marginalization is defined varies from one context to the other. And people may have varied perspectives on who they think is being marginalized. As a response, the participants made a substantial point by emphasizing that marginalization should be perceived as the lack of or no access to the various opportunities available in society. Simply put, if you have a piece of bond paper with margins, you are called marginalized if you are placed outside the margins and not within the main space. Therefore, if you are a person belonging to the LGBT community, you become marginalized if you are denied access to employment, for example, because of your sexual preference. Or if you are a Person with a Disability and you are denied access to education because teachers do not know how to accommodate your needs, you are marginalized.
As a response, the participants made a substantial point by emphasizing that marginalization should be perceived as the lack of or no access to the various opportunities available in society.
What causes marginalization?
It was highlighted that marginalization is caused by a lot of factors. One’s paradigm, prejudices, and biases to a certain group or sector in society contribute to the issue of marginalization. For example, people discriminate a juvenile youth because they think he or she does not deserve to be included or to be part of society. One participant strongly stressed that one’s prejudices and biases are transmitted from one generation to another. This was supported by one participant when she shared, “I have been working closely with children and I once asked them what they think about disability. Most of them shared that they are ‘useless’ and ‘abnormal’. I asked them how they know these words. And they responded that they all heard them from their parents”.
What can young people do to address marginalization?
It was empowering to observe that the participants consistently recognized the fact that they, as young people, can contribute to addressing the issue of marginalization in society. One participant stressed that young people have the capacity to initiate their own activities specifically geared to including marginalized groups. One concrete way is through social enterprises. There are young people in the province who mobilize poor communities by allowing them to create their own livelihood programs using indigenous and raw materials. Another participant shared her own experience of working with children with disabilities. Her focus is to empower student teachers in Teacher Education Institutions to become advocates for inclusive education. She strongly believes in the power of young people to advance the fundamental human right of children with disabilities to access quality and inclusive education.
There are young people in the province who mobilize poor communities by allowing them to create their own livelihood programs using indigenous and raw materials.
The slogan ‘Nothing about us, without us’ was brought into the discussion especially when one of the youth participants emphasized the concept of active youth participation. He said, “Marginalized youth are often not involved in decision-making processes”. The participant believed that these young people must be listened to because they are the most credible people to know about their needs.
It had been an enriching experience to listen to what young people had to say about marginalization and inclusion. It has provided me an interesting perspective about the issue. Furthermore, I believe that the event has affirmed what Ban Ki-Moon said. Yes, ‘The youth are often at the frontline to stand against discrimination, inequality, and marginalization. The youth are a force for transformation’. The challenge now is how to encourage more young people to join the bandwagon of young advocates to work together with and for the marginalized sectors. As the acronym TEAM means – Together Everyone Achieves More.
The challenge now is how to encourage more young people to join the bandwagon of young advocates working with and for the marginalized sectors.
[Head Photo: Abhimanyu]