Young people have global conscience – Special Adviser Rahman

Hillary Clinton’s Special Adviser (SA) on Global Youth Issues and Director of the Office of Global Youth Issues, Zeenat Rahman believes young people today have more of a global conscience compared to other generations.

In an interview with The College View, SA Rahman said: “What I have noticed on all of my travels is that you have young people who grow up with a global consciousness and they’re aware of problems…in the way that I never was. What happens with that is you find a passion for a wide range of issues.

“You find all these different passions and there isn’t one that’s going to tie all of you together. How you define young people, to be seen as what they are, which is more engaged in the world, who care about people more than themselves and working for various causes; it’s very important.”

SA Rahman was in DCU with US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton during her address on human rights. She joined US Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Maria Otero in meeting with members of the 50th US Dublin Embassy Youth Council to discuss issues affecting Ireland’s youth.

Among the issues raised at the meeting by the council members was the need to change when and how we teach young people about their mental health, the need to raise awareness of the LGBT community and the need to address racial discrimination.

Speaking to The College View after the meeting, Special Adviser Rahman said: “When we came up with the idea to launch embassy youth councils, the idea was to speak to the young people about the issues that matter and concern them.”

Asked what issues she thinks the youth council should discuss, SA Rahman replied: “It’s certainly not for me to decide, but for the young people that we met with.

“I would say issues of mental health and well-being will be first and foremost on the agenda, as well as looking at how we can create an equitable and just society for all minorities. Whether that means young people with LGBT backgrounds or ethnic or religious minorities. There’s a really broad range to discuss but those seem to be the core areas.”

On the importance of young people getting involved in politics, SA Rahman told The College View: “Young people are doing multiple extra-curriculars, they have a major, they might be doing something personally helping their family as well, so they’re juggling a lot of balls. So doing all of that without looking at how you engage politically is a lost opportunity.

“Absolutely young people should be involved in politics. From my own personal experience, having a young person at the table, it always improves the conversation.”

SA Rahman’s advice to young people wanting to promote their issues and passions is: “You should know the channels of political participation and then I think building consensus among young people is really important.

“The other thing I notice is that many people will have projects, but think about that collective narrative. Just today, there was a group of 45 people who had never met one another before, two thirds of whom are passionate about mental health, suicide prevention and so on. That power of the collective is so much more that the power of one and so I think knowing what those resources are and the people who are working on the same things as you and then knowing the channels that you take that message is really important.”

SA Rahman told The College View the impact of the economic crisis on young people is “huge and it’s global”. There are 75 million young people who are unemployed in the world and so Rahman believes “we all have to be creative”.

“It involves engaging the private sector, governments and young people themselves to find interventions and solutions.”

Rahman said the US government are working with the private sector to look at how young people on internships and apprenticeships can use them to get on the ladder to economic success.

Aoife Mullen

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