On air: Is direct action the only way for young people to get noticed?

On Christmas day we’re handing WHYS over to a panel of young listeners from Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Canada, Zimbabwe, Greece and the US.  We gave them the chance to set the agenda and this is what they want to ask you:

How should young voices be heard . .. .and taken seriously? After student-led protests in Greece and France, is protesting becoming the only way young people can get concerns about unemployment, education and other issues noticed? Are their better ways for young people to engage with their communities than taking to the streets, or are young people just not taken seriously until they do?

Let me introduce the young WHYS listeners who want to know what you think:

“I am Farajii R. Muhammad, I’m a public relations specialist and president of the nonprofit youth organization called New Light Leadership Coalition. I have been teaching, training and empowering young people to become leaders in their communities for 10 years. I’m also the host of a local radio program here in Baltimore in the USA called Listen Up. I’m very excited about the opportunity to do this radio show with global young leaders. In a world of economic, political and social crisis, what role can the global young leader play to establish peace? What does activism for the global young leader look like? Is it protesting and rallying, organizing for greater community involvement or should we focus on changing government policy? I believe that leadership is not when man defines you, but when you redefine yourself.”

“I am Abhinav, 16 years old, currently residing in Dhaka, Bangladesh I am actually a citizen of Nepal. Currently, I have been doing ‘O’ (Ordinary) Level exams. I always wanted to be a communicator and build up a network of people to bring about changes in developing societies. That is one of the reasons for me in getting to know and involve with WHYS.”from longinos' exhibition in Korogocho slum, Nairobi

Longinos is from Nairobi, Kenya says:  “I would like to share with you a little part of my life experience, from where I came from and where I think I am headed…I was born in a very poor family. We moved to Nairobi and arrived in a slum called Korogocho, the living conditions were not good at all, it gave me a different picture of what I had thought about Nairobi in my childhood dreams.  Currently I am working towards my second art exhibition.  I strongly believe that the solution to youth problems lies in youths themselves, I really would like to encourage young people with talents to use their talents to earn a living in the right way. ”  You can see pictures Longinos sent from his first exhibition in Korogocho here and on this post.from longinos' exhibition

“I am Bryony, a Zimbabwean studying a Masters in Development Studies at Oxford in the UK. My aim is to encourage youth leadership programmes internationally. I believe in youth participation in global democracy but am very keen for this to be real as opposed to just representative. Young people have much to add to the struggle against the world’s problems.”

“I am Aisha, a born and raised Canadian, in my last year of a Doctor of Medicine at the University of Alberta.  I have been involved over the last 7 years in youth development programs and orchestrating model United Nations. Many young people are actively leading institutions, movements, and participating in development internationally; how can more young people engage and be effective in changing society?”

And Longinos’ friend Daniel from the band “Hoperaisers“, who also lives in Korogocho, Nairobi will be joining in the debate too.

How do young people get their voices heard where you are? Is youth protest too cliche to be taken seriously or is apathy the real problem? Are we facing a new wave of powerful youth activism through social networking, that President-elect Obama used to his advantage in his campaign? Let us know what you think.

44 Responses to “On air: Is direct action the only way for young people to get noticed?”

  1. 1 DENNIS
    December 23, 2008 at 05:42

    In reality, direct action by the youths are the; only way they are going to have anything place on the agenda ….


  2. December 23, 2008 at 12:26

    It’s time for me to be the WHYS token curmudgeonly old git. My online signature used to be “I wish I’d encountered all the problems I see today back when I was young and knew everything”.

    This is not to say that we old gits are doing a particularly good job with the world…and as a youth I did my share of protest…but a youthful lack of experience doesn’t guarantee any correct answers.

  3. 3 Obeds Oriku
    December 23, 2008 at 12:57

    Hi WHYS,

    I have my reservations regarding direct action by the youth as a way of pushing our agenda; at least not in kenya; whoever witnessed the post-election chaos will agree that this country has no freedom of expression; the youth were robbed of their victory and when they used direct action our daft police force brutally massacred majority of the youths.

    Secondly parliament recently passed a bill aimed at muzzling the media, and again sealing off another avenue used by the youth to express themselves; they want to check Short Message Texts and most channels used by the youth and as though this is not enough suppression, political parties are dominated by very old folks; women who tried to vie for seats within their political parties got a rude shock and the youth were clever enough not to try.

    My solution; we are the majority voters in the country and given that we showed an example of what we are capable of in the 2007 elections; I can ask the youths to emulate American youths, we kick out the old folks and give fellow youths the opportunity and if they do good they remain and if they fail then too bad-at least we tried.

  4. 4 Arnaud Ntirenganya Emmanuel
    December 23, 2008 at 14:40

    I don’t think young people’s voices are heard at all here in Africa…Young people have no say… while we are the majority everywhere. If we could be heard I bet it could be no more wars, injustice, corruption… because we are tired of suffering from these old greedy, corrupt, unjust folks who only care for their families.

  5. 5 John van Dokkumburg
    December 23, 2008 at 18:39

    Hello , very good questions here , like to mention

    Longinos is from Nairobi, Kenya says
    I strongly believe that the solution to youth problems lies in youths themselves, I really would like to encourage young people with talents to use their talents to earn a living in the right way.

    I agree , youth can do allot if they got a chance but that is also a chance of the way the older/ mom and dad look to there children .. they are not only lovely if they like you .. unfortunly do something bad .. whats bad if this society is in danger but mom and dad dont give a thing , only about you .. that doesent sound fair to me .. Personly i think that mom and dad dont have to be the only parents you have but a very important idea is to know that you have a place in society , And if you need this , you must start from the soil / bottem . If coverments lead the people to orgenice country workprojects it should be very helpfull for your personal dignity .. maby staying away from home for a month pr. project , building our / earning a home for yourself !

    I am Abhinav, 16 years old

    I always wanted to be a communicator and build up a network of people to bring about changes in developing societies.

    It is importante that people see examplers of how living at home is and give social projects to lead them arround , nature wants everybody as long they live, cultures do only for a day and find something new .. but life isnt invented , think about that !

    I am Farajii R. Muhammad

    In a world of economic, political and social crisis, what role can the global young leader play to establish peace? What does activism for the global young leader look like?
    I believe that leadership is not when man defines you, but when you redefine yourself

    The economis crises is because we dont want nature play a main part , and i mean also our status quo .. if we force life then we can expect a reaction and nature can do it without us but we can not without her.

    I am Bryony, a Zimbabwean
    I believe in youth participation in global democracy but am very keen for this to be real as opposed to just representative. Young people have much to add to the struggle against the world’s problems.”

    Is there democractie in your school ? Because i believe there needs to be learned what democratie means

    I am Aisha, a born and raised Canadian
    I have been involved over the last 7 years in youth development programs and orchestrating model United Nations. Many young people are actively leading institutions, movements, and participating in development internationally; how can more young people engage and be effective in changing society?”

    We have to learn that big institution only works if we have the freedom to thoose democratie lokaly , otherwise personal interest go above the needs of countries and bribe / corruption can apears whits serve the few instead of thoose they represents .

    Sorry i was a bid late but hope you look at it ! John

  6. December 24, 2008 at 12:48

    It worked to great effect in the mid 1960’s through to the early 1970’s.
    But the younger generation at the time were the offspring post World War 2. And when approaching teenage years up were not going to put up with “The Establishment” and wanted to challenge the status quo head on.

  7. 7 DENNIS
    December 25, 2008 at 06:05

    How do young people get their voices heard where you are? Is youth protest too cliche to be taken seriously or is apathy the real problem? Are we facing a new wave of powerful youth activism through social networking, that President-elect Obama used to his advantage in his campaign? Let us know what you think.

    ~~I think that, it is a brilliant idea to use….~~


  8. 8 Luci Smith
    December 25, 2008 at 11:20

    Since I am 50 and not at all happy with the way the world is run now, I can only encourage young people to become active to change things in the world and in the society they live in. But it goes for people of all ages.

    I have participated in a lot of different activities that could be classed as direct action and still do. As a pacifist, I do not take part in violent confrontations.

    When George W. Bush left Denmark after a 2 – day visit about 4 years ago, there was this incredible giant demonstration against him at the Folketinget, the Danish Parliament building. There were only 2 policemen with motorcycles stationed to keep cars from driving through the street where people were milling about. This was in contrast to the many, many officers who had been commandered to assist and do security for the President and the Prime Minister. And of course, the press did not come to the demonstaration, but those of us who were there sure did have fun singing and dancing and celebrating.

  9. 9 Nelson
    December 25, 2008 at 12:17

    Making your self relevant as a young person is really a matter of choice.
    First you have to decide to make your self heard, in all fairness, situations around may make this a difficult a proposition, but the key is your convictions. If they are strong, they will drive you to do things however they should be done within the limits of the law

  10. 10 1430a
    December 25, 2008 at 14:03

    Merry Christmas to all!!

  11. December 25, 2008 at 14:08

    As a third world remote youth I experienced totally different. Here, nobody listen youth voices until their road pretest. Really it is very sad but bitter reality is that mentality and behaviors of the politician always remain same no matter what the situation and time they are living. They always do verbal politics rather than action politics. We need Transformational leadership not transgenic anymore. We are able to make the differences around us if a chance is given. We youth are not only the future of the nations but also the partners of the present. We can do everything. That’s why I believe in the power of youth.

    Change: Yes We Can!

  12. 12 Dave
    December 25, 2008 at 16:11

    So now we are calling rioting and public disorder “Direct Action?” Greek youths were angry at the police for killing a teenager – so naturally they went marauding as gangs and destroyed business’ and brought the economy to a halt harming millions of innocent citizens. This is not a good way to win sympathy from people whom YOU are hurting.

    By the way, youth unemployment, high education costs, and of course the “no one understands me or listens to me” attitude did not originate with today’s youth, nor will it end with you. We all felt like that in our teens and twenties. of course you need to be involved, but be civil!

  13. 13 1430a
    December 25, 2008 at 16:28

    Hello everyone,

    I hope you all had a great Christmas!

    Well,the other day I met a man in the BBC studio.He asked me : ‘What is the question they are asking today?’I replied by saying’Is direct action the only way for young people to get noticed?’.As soon as I said that,he answered:” By throwing shoe at Bush!Thats what you call direct action?”
    Thats what i also want to say: Direct action by throwing shoe,stones,burning tires and breaking a building down?There are many more chances of Activism,some of which include using the Internet!This fast flowing generation has allowed people to spread their messages easily with the click of a button!

    So,direct action done peacefully is obviously the only way to make your agenda heard by the government.

    Thank you,

  14. December 25, 2008 at 16:53

    I think it is about time the ‘youth’ should be taken somewhat more seriously than they. There is also something very wrong about most systematised curriculum driven education practised in most schools, this ‘dumbing down’ effect will inhibit other forms of expression other than the primitive.
    Though I can’t say the ‘older and wiser’ are setting much of an example.
    Yes I would say protest away, you will be inheriting the place and it’s not a pretty sight at the moment.

  15. December 25, 2008 at 17:06

    It’s the only way for anyone to get noticed.

  16. 16 Fred
    December 25, 2008 at 17:19

    I think this subject is critical for today but I don’t hear it on BBC??????

  17. 17 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    December 25, 2008 at 18:06

    I am not a young person. I am 58 years old. I took “direct action” when I was 18, protesting my country’s unjust war in Vietnam. My eldest brother took direction action, going to Vietnam as a professional soldier with a green beret on his head. My elder brother took less direct action, fleeing to Canada to avoid being drafted into that war. All my actions, direct or not, were peaceful.

    Young people in Greece recently took direct action, which amounted to hooliganism. Young people in Mumbai recently took direct action that turned out to be mass murder.

    The only “direct action” I am willing to sanction nowadays is to put a ballot in a box in a free and fair election. Any “direct action” that has an honest popular vote as its aim I am all for. Any other sort of “direct action” must first be proved to be non-violent with the aim of furthering the will of the majority of ordinary people.

    Whatever the excellent motives of those calling for “direct action,” no worthy cause is served by indiscriminate violence.

    Donnamarie in Switzerland

  18. 18 Ogola Benard
    December 25, 2008 at 18:19

    The action of taking on the streets depends on what you are taking to the street. If it has got nothing to do with violence and interruption of normal business and threath to government, then the youth should take to the streets! The youth are the biggest voters in any governance and have sections responsible for them in the very governance. Unfortunately they have been often roughened up during protests because they are always not well organized!

  19. 19 Ogola Benard
    December 25, 2008 at 18:25

    Most government programmes like HIV / AIDS, rural development, unemployment and so on, always focus on the youth who are still body abled. So why not take to the streets for what affects you?

  20. 20 Tom D Ford
    December 25, 2008 at 18:27

    The United States was founded by direct action. The US Founders first presented a statement to the world and listed their grievances and reasons for Revolution in the form of our Declaration of Independence.

    That great English Magna Charta was achieved through direct action, if I recall correctly.

    India achieved Independence through direct non-violent action against the British.

    The French used direct action in their Revolution to make progress against their Conservative government by overthrowing their monarchy.

    But quite often direct actions are suppressed brutally by whoever is in power.

    I think that you have to present your list of grievances to the world and get the people of the world on your side so that your government changes because of world demand and not just the demands of a seeming few.

    Many conservative governments, monarchies, changed and allowed progressive ideas like human rights to be brought into being because of violent direct actions in other countries like the Russian Revolution. I think of Sweden and Great Britain for examples, their monarchies changed drastically so that they kept their heads connected to their bodies.

  21. 21 Jay , Riga, Latvia (Originally Baltimore)
    December 25, 2008 at 18:28

    I think that the option of direct action, up to and including violent revolution) should never be closed off a priori. Government is a dangerous beast which often infringes on the basic liberties of the people. In most cases, the people can reclaim their inalienable rights through such methods as the vote, economic action or other non-violent methods. Should these fail, the only action available requires violent revolution. The second amendment to the US Constitution reflects this need. Were I a Zimbabwian, I would be stockpiling ammunition.

  22. 22 john smith - jamaica
    December 25, 2008 at 18:30

    @ ross
    many people do not vote..the question to ask is why and in particular why are young people nbot enticed to vote.
    all they see are elderly politicians who come around once every 4-5 years and make promises, get elected and then leave. Due to age restictions in many jurisdictions, young people cannot get elected to make the changes themselves, so they feel disenfanchised.

  23. 23 Alex
    December 25, 2008 at 18:31

    I’m Alex from Dar es salam, Tanzania. I think its important for young people to express their views using direct action but we must also beware of politicians using the youth for their selfish needs. Recently there were strikes at the University of Dar es salam but funny enough most of the students didnt even know what they were striking about.

  24. 24 Savior
    December 25, 2008 at 18:33

    I think we all need to be clear on the different understanding and meaning of Direct Action? For me any form of public expression from a section of society will manifest itself in various forms wether peaceful or violently as a symptom of deeper underlying dysfunctions in the conventional political establishments.

    The question shud therefore be not weather direct action is effective but what form of direct action would be effective in providing an alternative channel for the unheard politicals voices and needs of different interest groups especially the marginalsied and the young people.

  25. 25 Joanne
    December 25, 2008 at 18:34

    Our greatest fear, is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.

    We live in a global society with so much going on around us, constantly assaulting the senses. 24/7 news, blogs upon blogs, magazines and texts published by the truck load, increasingly, as the youth seek to be heard we need to do something outstanding in order to be noticed by these mediums and have our message put out there. In order to get noticed we get more “extreme.”

    Having said that – some of us are harnessing the technology available to us to create global impacts. Take a look at Botswana Project, an NGO with Batswana and American youth targeting HIV positive youth. Maybe THIS is the new form of direct action. Youth doing it for themselves; not necessarily needing to protest against the establishment – just getting on with it and making the difference.

  26. 26 john smith - jamaica
    December 25, 2008 at 18:36

    direct intervention without violence is the key. The electoral system was deisgned in an era when populations were smaller and only a select few had a say anyway, it is an outmoded system which news to be revisited. Out of direct intervention came elections and maybe this is the only way to fix a system which is now quite broken.

  27. 27 john smith - jamaica
    December 25, 2008 at 18:39

    @ aisha…the length of time it takes to get a bill passed in parliament is quite lengthy..look at France, the President had a bill proposed for a long time, which was not welcomed by many and it was withdrawn very quickly on the threat of social disturbance.

  28. 28 Peter
    December 25, 2008 at 18:40

    Go out to the real world and see if you can do better. Otherwise hold your parents accountable for electing the wrong people.

  29. 29 john smith - jamaica
    December 25, 2008 at 18:44

    the youth are not part of the decision making..we elect politicians who then make decisions in parliament which suites them and not the populace they are sworn to represent. the backdoor dealings and extravagant lifestyles they live on the back of the poor disgust me as a youth.

  30. 30 Tom D Ford
    December 25, 2008 at 18:45

    You have to tell the people in power how they will benefit by changing their ways, either by positive gain or by avoiding negative change.

  31. 31 Ogola Benard
    December 25, 2008 at 18:46

    In every compaign there are youth wingers who play the role of sensitization about their right candidates manifesto and who boost the compaign!

  32. 32 Ogola Benard
    December 25, 2008 at 18:53

    Ros you are right! They will all say yes, after all nobody will touch them after they are elcected!!

  33. 33 CJ McAuley
    December 25, 2008 at 18:54

    This very question is an example of one “size” of “democracy” not fitting all. I live in a relatively mature “democracy” named Canada. Our current PM had the electoral support of roughly 57% of those who voted. Ergo there is a distinct majority who do not support Harper, but there is no hint of “direct action”. The protests of the 1960’s in the USA led to Nixon! The only way for youth to have an impact is the “dirty” way: getting involved politically! While it may feel good to tear something down during the moment, such an act is ultimately self-defeating.

  34. 34 CJ McAuley
    December 25, 2008 at 18:57

    Correction: Harper had electoral support of about 43% of those who bothered to vote, with 57% not supporting him.

  35. 35 Henry
    December 25, 2008 at 19:35

    Direct action is the only way for young people to pursue their goals for change because it is the only language that decades of “old” leadership understand.

  36. 36 DENNIS
    December 26, 2008 at 01:23

    Merry {Late] Christmas wishes to all….i hope that the show went off great……………….


  37. December 26, 2008 at 10:01

    In November 2008, we, under the Youth Coalition for Development handed a petition to Uganda’s Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Namirembe Bitamazire to reform Uganda’s Education System which has failed to respond to the dynamics in Uganda’s Employment Sector. The system continues to provide predominantly theoretical training even at high institutions of learning which has made life so difficult for young job seekers who have had no previous exposure to a working environment.

    Universities have failed to partner with Employers to fix up students for meaningful practical on-job training in a busy working environment so that when they get out to look for jobs, they have some reasonable practical experience to be considered by employers. Instead, employers have had to train employees afresh after recruiting them.

    Today, every job advertised has strict requirements for work experience, fresh graduates don’t have due to the nature of training which is predominantly theoretical.

    Rural schools are marginalized in Uganda, they lack reading materials, teachers are impoverished so they spend most of their time in gardens and other private work trying to fulfill their pressing basic needs that the meager income cannot cover. In fact, the term Teacher is at times used by people as a metaphor for Poverty!
    What is really annoying is that, at the end of the day these rural students must seat the same National Examination (UNEB) which if they fail, they cannot proceed to the next level.

    In our petition, we highlighted some of these issues among others and also made recommendations for improvement.
    After waiting for a response in vain, we took to the streets in protest through a peaceful walk showing our frustration. We believed this would be a better way to draw government’s attention to the problem. You can find photos and a video clip of our walk at http://www.youthcoalition.ning.com.

    We are planning more public activities to the same effect until something is done about this problem.


  38. December 26, 2008 at 11:54

    lol, I don’t know exactly what to say about getting noticed. Each situation is different. I will tell you one thing, hosting a program on the BBC on Christmas day will probably go unnoticed.

  39. 39 bjay
    December 26, 2008 at 13:16

    YE !
    I don’t have a time to spend un this subject right now: however,

    I do have the time to spend to wish the BBC- team to Happy Holidays.


    I wish you Health and Good Luck.

    Bjay, just to the point !!!

  40. December 26, 2008 at 17:20

    Hi WHYSers!

    Belated Christmas greetings to all!

    I must say that the riots in Greece, specifically, have caught me completely by surprise in terms of the youth inserting their voices in a very powerful way into state politics in that country. I noticed it because, regardless of how one felt about the agenda of the protestors, there was no denying the seriousness of their committment and the importance that must ultimately, be attached to that, given how long the riots lasted and the narrative surrounding them.

    I was personally struck because, as someone who teaches young people, some of who are only a few years my junior, the riots in Greece were forceful in terms of communicating the seriousness of the politics of their cause. It reminded me that not all young people are about celebrities and fashion icons, ‘sex, drugs and Rock and Roll’ (in our case, Dancehall and to a much lesser extent Reggae!). And that is not to say that is, necessarilly, the case in Jamaica, either.

    Indeed, there was a resonance between the riots in Greece and the riots in France, especially amongst the immigrant community and the young people in particular – a sure indication that the concept of civil society might well be under pressure from the youth for failing to sufficiently acknowledge and address their concerns in a real way.

    Is that the only way to get their voices heard? I am not sure, but it certainly is effective in transporting their concerns across national borders and enlarging them to levels purely outside of specific local interests. In a way, it does gesture to the sense in which political ideology, at the level of youth politics, might well be under pressure from those once considered apolitical and or unaware.

  41. December 26, 2008 at 17:43

    I would like to add something else to what I said above. In response to the question of whether protests are the only ways of getting the concerns of the youth inserted into state politics, I would like to say no! Rather than the only way, it is the most popular way to do so. That does not mean it is not effective or, for that matter, that there are not more effective means of having one’s voice heard.

    However, it is to suggest that the sheer volume and power of those who resort to protest actions are enough to cripple and even stimulate regime change in a state. In fact, there were some commentators who were suggesting that the riots in Greece went passed the police killing to incorporate that very sentiment. The same is also true of President Sarkozy last year, in terms of his recognition of how French politics has bypassed young immigrant people in that country and, the youth more generally. Among others, this means that when mobilised, protest actions do have a phenomenal capacity to overwhelm or even undermine the resources of the state. The recent documentary on 1968 on the BBC further attests to that.

    In only numbers, the youth are an important demographic. However, their numbers alone belie their diversity of political opinions/ persuasions. That means, if distilled and properly harnessed there are many other effective ways of incorporating those voices into state politics, positively. Protest actions, by themselves, can paralyse governments, at some level. I am just not sure if they are sufficient to engineer real and lasting change to political structures, over time, without the help of additional factors.

  42. December 29, 2008 at 03:29

    The Social networking websites or Business Social networking blogs are increasingly changes and developing the Presence of the young people into the societie! I hope that would help for a better future!

  43. 43 John in Germany
    January 5, 2009 at 11:42

    The NPD in Germany are using the impatience of the young to propagate thier evil teachings, to the point where teachers are having problems in schools with right wing thinking children, whom have been indoctrinated by thier right wing elders.

    Sadly there is hesitation in banning this party, due to an application being turned down by the German supreme court because of V men in the Party.

    I believe all youth is inpatient, we were when we were young, but we respected our elders, and the society in which we lived. And we did not even think of destruction as a method of getting ourselves heard, we voiced our feelings in debate clubs, at the cricket field after practice, as young trade unionists. Violence has never been the Ideal way to achieve ones aims, but sadly the seniors are setting a bad example.

    John in Germany

  44. January 21, 2009 at 14:10

    I think patience with necessary action is the key.

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