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YOUTH PARTICIPATION

Young people in rural areas need to be met on their own platforms and spoken to on their own terms, so that they feel like they can participate in policy processes as valuable members of society. Young people need to be part of the decision-making space to ensure that their needs are met, and their recommendations must be considered and incorporated into policy-making processes. Decision-making processes affect young people’s lives both now and in the future. If rural areas are to survive, we must ensure that we are building a future that appeals to those who want to move there and the demographics the rural areas wish to attract.

We recommend: 
  • Avoiding “youth-washing” and tokenism when involving young people in policy-making processes. Their  contributions are more than symbolic. Involving young people should not be a “box-ticking” exercise with no intention of making any real impact.
  • Using inclusive and accessible language (including indigenous and minority languages) when engaging young people in policy-making processes. 
  • Meeting young people in their spaces, to facilitate better understanding of policy areas and decision-making processes. This includes both social media platforms, where information can be made more accessible, and rural youth being approached by peers from their own age groups. 
  • Making participation and engagement in rural planning fun and appealing for young people. Inspiration for these efforts may be found in urban development and planning movements, which may be adapted to a specifically rural perspective.
  • Supporting youth involvement in councils and panels through monetary compensation to encourage and recognise young people’s input to public policy.  
  • Promoting opportunities for engagement, to raise awareness of existing channels and forums.
  • Involving young people with disabilities. “Young people” are a diverse group, and it is important to include the perspectives and experiences of those with impairments in order to diversify policies and make them more inclusive. 
  • Teaching young people about democratic and societal engagement processes from an early age, to increase faith in the democratic system. Efforts aimed at motivation and engagement will be more effective if the processes involved feel relevant and familiar. 
  • Make democratic processes accessible by ensuring safe spaces free of prejudice and age discrimination. Politics can be both overwhelming and daunting. 
  • Being good role models – in other words, “walking the walk”. What action will you take to include more young people in your work?