Capacity For Change, Something We Dread
For as long as I can remember, many programs that have sought to discourage young people from "social ills" by providing them with institutionalised education and puritanical dogma failed because they did not seek the views of the youths themselves.
Everyone has a right to express their views when decisions are being made that directly affect their lives. And young people, particularly those ostracised by the educated, privileged community and the occasional self-proclaimed 'youth' leaders.
Yet, as I travel further beyond the boundaries of comfort, into the rural terrains of South East Asia, I often find that civil society and the towering authority actually believes it's justified to remove the fundamental human right from marginalised communities.
And often uneducated, poor or rural young people fall into this wretched classification of being demonised.
Based on my focus group discussions with marginalised youths in scattered, crowded communities in Northern Thailand, ThaiSouth, youths in Cambodian slums, and those living and working in rural Malaysia, these neglected young populations have significant desire for greater involvement.
There are a lot of people who want to have a say but are reprimanded so that they won't speak out again. Its also not uncommon to find teenagers and young adults not knowing enough about how to go about it. Rather than stimulating the flow of self determination, the establishment discourages non-conformist thoughts, much less expression.
But then again, maybe what the authorities and some NGOs want: to weaken the commitment to democratic flow. Its far simpler to snub the rights of expression among marginalised children and youths. Society's lack of cravings for equality, as it is people find more time to build monuments for some dead leader than spare time empowering the younger generation towards making informed decisions.
All to what end? Isn't it obvious; the mainstream, the institutions want, desire that marginalised young people remain chained for the sole purpose of controlling them.
I see many challenges ahead of them, of us. At this rate, society and the government are simply building the momentum of socio-economic suicide.
Unless we remember of a time when we were young, with aspirations and dreams. Of an age when we desired for change, for freedom.
Perhaps, there's a glimmer of hope. Perhaps.