May 2, 2013 in Youth
Most human cultures have a coming of age ritual. This may be a bar mitzvah, quinceanera, seijin shiki, sehra or sweet sixteen, and may hold religious, social or cultural significance. However, in the broadest sense, these rituals recognize that an individual has reached a point in their life where they begin to take responsibility for themselves. Through adolescence there comes transference of responsibility, from full dependence on an adult to full reliance on oneself.
No consensus exists as to when this transference takes place. Different societies around the world have set a variety of age limits in law relating to exercising democratic rights, consenting to a sexual encounter, drinking, driving or getting married. In the UK the law states that age 16 you are deemed capable of being make decisions about sex, but this ranges from 12 to 21 elsewhere. To vote in the UK you must be 18, but only 16 in Brazil or even 21 in Cameroon.
Generation Development is concerned with youth and young people, a concept that is not easily categorized by numbers alone. The transition from childhood to adulthood is not discreet. There is no obvious change over point, but instead a gradual process of ever increasing personal responsibility. We do not seek to represent the needs of children, those individuals who remain both socially and legally dependent on their parents, which makes our youngest participants around 15 or 16 years old.
The transition from being a young person to not being a young person any more is even less tangible. Various different youth organizations set upper age limits of 21, 24, 28, 30 or 35 depending on their context and mission. The UN defines youth as 15 – 24, but when does one stop being young?
Generation Development seeks to capture the views of those who will see the next set of development goals through. If the timetable were set again at 15 years, we would be looking at an aspirational date of 2030. A 15-year-old today would be 32 and a 30-year-old 47. To me, the young people Generation Development want to engage share a specific set of characteristics. They feel underrepresented by democratic institutions, but have a burning desire to participate and have their voices heard. They receive the brunt of the world’s economic difficulties, but want the opportunity to be economically active. They want access to opportunities to further their education and improve life for themselves and their communities. They have a vision of a better future for them and their children, united around global issues such as tackling climate change and improving global health.
However, for me the ultimate definition is that if you feel young, you are probably young enough to be a member of Generation Development.