The Power of Youth: Pursuing Equality and Inclusivity
South Africa’s Youth Month reminds us of how the power of youth can transform a society. Learn how it can inspire us in our pursuit of equality and inclusivity.
The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.”—Nelson Mandela.
Think about the youth of today, and how they have inspired change throughout the world by raising their voices. When we hear names like Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg, we see them as great role models and look at how they have inspired the world through their voices. There are many occasions where youth have stood up for what they believe in, both now and in the past. These events have gone down in history as great triumphs over injustices.
One such occasion had occurred 45 years ago, on June 16th, in a township called Soweto, South Africa. Now, June 16th may have passed, but the movement left a lasting mark in South Africa’s history. This leads to the celebration of Youth Month in South Africa.
The History of Youth Month in South Africa
Before South Africa became a democracy, in 1994, racism played a huge role in how the country was managed. The Apartheid Government had segregated the people according to their race, and during this period the “non-whites” experienced extreme levels of discrimination. The turn of events that led to the uprising in Soweto began when it was declared that the Afrikaans language (along with English) must be the compulsory medium of instruction in schools.
This created a huge uproar within the communities, and on the 16th of June 1976, thousands of students mobilized to protest against this law. Heavily armed police had intercepted what was meant to be a peaceful protest. This resulted in a violent outbreak, through which several were injured, and many lives were lost.
The youth in this era recognized the importance of equality and inclusivity to the extent that they risked their lives to achieve this, against all odds. The fight was more than just the language of instruction for educational purposes, it was also about access to proper and accurate educational resources that will equalize the socio-economic environment for all.
Since that moment, June is known as “Youth Month” in South Africa to commemorate the Soweto Uprising.
While this particular Youth Month is specific to South Africa, the underlying movement is not. The youth of today still experience hardships, such as lack of employment opportunities and negative stereotyping.
What Youth Day means to me as a South African
June 16th is seen as a sorrowful day and is commemorated in honor of those students who took a stand to revolt against the government. But I see it as an example set for all. The voices of a few thousand students had turned into the voices of the entire country as the news of the uprising spread. The desired outcome of the action taken may not have been immediate, but it was the stepping stone that led to a greater future for the oncoming generations. It is thanks to those brave students that we live in a better South Africa. Their impeccable courage and valor demonstrated the power that the youth hold—when they stand together, united, they can bring about great changes.
While this particular Youth Month is specific to South Africa, the underlying movement is not. The youth of today still experience hardships, such as lack of employment opportunities and negative stereotyping. The struggle may be different, but the underlying cause is still the same—the fight for equality and inclusivity. June 16th is a reminder to the youth of today that we can achieve if we have strong willpower and the passion to fight for what we believe in.
What we all can take away from this day is that when we set out to achieve a goal or a vision, and we strive towards it, all obstacles will seem insignificant because we have the power to write our own destiny.
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your heart on fire” – Jennifer Lee
The power of youth can change the world we live in. Check out our other blogs on Diversity and Inclusion.