Akash, Youth Climate Champion at Restless Development's Youth Climate Action Lab.

Happy International Youth Day 2023! from Restless Development

International Youth Day is a busy time of year for young leaders and change-makers worldwide. It’s not news to anyone that 60% of Africa’s population is under 25 years old. Peak youth (or the demographic dividend) has a huge potential. 

As always, Restless Development is celebrating the incredible achievements that youth-led change is making. But this year we want to bring your attention to what more we can do.

The power of youth-led change (otherwise known as Youth Power!)

Young people lead movements and global change, without much fanfare. Every day, young people are organising to solve real problems in their lives and communities. Collective action led by young people is transforming the status quo. Such as: 

Gender-based Violence & Child Marriage: Ending gender-based violence and child marriage in their communities in Zambia

Covid Recovery: Young people advocating for a fair and equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in ten countries including Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Uganda

Democracy: The role that young people played in Nigeria’s elections, the work of Democracy Moves and youth-led call to action

Climate Change:   young leaders like Parvathi organising and finding solutions, or Michael and Peter inventing and developing the solar-powered backpack in Sierra Leone and the global organising of young leaders to come up with a Big Idea to make world leaders listen, and the Youth Climate Action Lab driving action in India. 

Young changemakers are better connected than ever before. The Youth Collective, set up by Restless Development, now has more than 4,000 youth-led organisations. The fast growth is testimony to the appetite of young organisers to connect across boards to hold the line on diminishing rights, as well as support and mentor each other.  

How is Youth Power faring?

Restless Development’s annual flagship report ‘State of Youth Civil Society’ shines a light on how youth-led organising is faring. This year, the report ‘Young, Feminist and Fearless: Holding the Line’ focused on the critical role of young feminist movements. The research involved more than 1,000 young people in 82 countries. We found that: 

✨Movements are led by young people – they’re resilient and strong – however, they don’t usually get the recognition they deserve. 

✨Feminist movements are digital natives but gatekeeping by big tech companies, restrictive ad policies and online harassment are major challenges to social media use.  

✨Feminist movements are fighting an unseen battle with mental health and face alarming security challenges. 

What does Youth Power need?

This year’s research highlighted the question – who protects the protectors? When young feminists are doing so much to hold the line for their rights, they are all too often led unfunded, unsupported and burnt out. 

It’s not just young feminists that are struggling to get the funding and support they need. Earlier this year, the ClimateWorks Foundation found that youth-led climate justice initiatives account for only 0.76% of climate mitigation funding from the world’s largest climate foundations.

Youth Power needs flexible, long-term, supportive funders more now than ever.  

This  International Youth Day, as we shine a light on and celebrate the incredible force that is Youth Power, let’s ask ourselves what more are we doing to provide the long-term sustainable lifeline that is needed to keep the Youth Power fire burning.  For more on Restless Development, read our Strategy and our latest Annual Report

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Happy International Youth Day 2023! from Restless Development

by Alex Kent Reading time: 2 min