The power of youth activism #25yearsWAVE

On 28 August 2020, Zvezdana Radulović, 2nd generation WAVE Youth Ambassador from Montenegro and Beverly Mtui, WAVE Youth Ambassador Coordinator, conducted the webinar THE POWER OF YOUTH ACTIVISM – how youth are making a change in their community to stop violence against women and girls. The aim of the webinar was to reiterate the importance and influence of youth inclusion in feminist contexts, and how this has been implemented within the WAVE Network and the WAVE Step Up! Campaign. For the past 2 years, youth engagement and youth participation have become intrinsic parts in order to mobilize and encourage young people to not only raise awareness but also be aware of violence against women and girls.

As the first cycle of WAVE Youth Ambassadors was particularly successful in starting a conversation with local youth and even with politically influential figures to highlight the need for improved and effective legislation on violence prevention and women’s rights, it is clear that the WAVE Youth Ambassador initiative has become a strong tool in increasing efforts to prevent and combat violence against women and girls by specifically and effectively targeting youth. As “nearly one third of the EU population were under the age of 30 in 2016, with children aged 0-14 years accounting for a 16 % share of the EU population and young people aged 15-29 years for 17 %”[1], and this number has evidently grown in the last four years, it is crucial to include youth in the global fight against violence against women and girls.

In the WAVE Youth Ambassador mini Conference, the WAVE Youth Ambassadors from all generations expressed that they felt like young activists often remained invisible in feminist movements or were not taken seriously enough, despite their efforts to making a positive and effective change in their community. Therefore, the WAVE Youth Ambassadors aimed to highlight their own experiences as young activists and/or talk to young activists in their respective countries for International Youth Day. This was published as a series entitled “THE POWER OF YOUTH ACTIVISM”[2], which is available on the WAVE Blog.

During the webinar as well as the WAVE Blog series, Zvezdana Radulović gave some insight on her life as a young activist in Montenegro and shared how she invested time and energy into fulfilling her dream of working in a feminist organisation, which she successfully accomplished after volunteering for a year in the same NGO she is now working with. “No matter how young you are, there is always a place for you to be active and make positive change!”

It is evident that not only during the WAVE Blog series “THE POWER OF YOUTH” or the WAVE webinar of the same name, but for the entire WAVE Youth Ambassador programme, the aim is to highlight the work of young activists whether that be in cooperation with organisations, with other activists or independently. It is about creating a support system for and by young activists in order to strengthen each other and effectively turn efforts into a vibrant movement. Especially now, where we are witnessing and experiencing a pushback by right wing governments to end violence against women through funding cuts, undermining of women’s services, threatening of activists and more, it is of great importance to promote an intersectional and intergenerational dialogue to create and further raise awareness about violence against women and girls to be able to lobby for better legislation to keep women and girls safe from violence.