“People have the ability to make change and it’s worth trying.”
When the climate strikes of 2018 took place, young people all over the world campaigned and protested for the older generation to do something about the world that was falling apart around them. The media attention was astounding, young people were gathering in mass in their cities and skipping school in order to make their voices heard. Two years on, the frenzy has died down considerably – however, there are still young people fighting for change, and not just regarding climate change anymore.
Anna Warren, Amnesty International UK’s Children’s Human Rights Network Committee Member and fervent young activist said: “Young people are taken even less seriously now than they were two years ago. People were interested because children were doing something special but then the attention went away and things returned to normal. There’s been major climate meetings since then and not a single young person has been invited to take part. The world is now talking about climate change because of children and young people yet we are still not being listened to.
There’s that mindset of hearing the word ‘child’ or ‘youth’ and being automatically dismissed. We’re expected to have the responsibilities of an adult yet we are given the responsibilities of a child.”
There are lots more young people beginning to find their feet and stand up for their rights. Amnesty International is one of the world’s largest human roots organisations, hosting dozens of conferences and events to spread their message. During her visit to the UN in November 2019, Warren reflects on a conference that took place celebrating 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“There was a workshop in youth activism and for about an hour and a half it was middle aged men speaking and then just 25 minutes of children speaking at the end. We were celebrating 30 years of the convention on the rights of the child. Imagine going to this workshop as a youg person and just being so disappointed.”
Warren is an advocate for this generation with her volunteering and fundraising work. Last summer she walked the equivalent of a marathon for Rape Crisis and raised over £2000, but most recently she completed three gruelling weeks consisting of three challenges for Care4Calais – a refugee charity based in France. Week one, she camped outside in rainy and wintery conditions in a tent. Week two, she lived on a refugee’s rations of oats, beans and rice for seven days. Finally on week three she underwent an hour of extreme exercise every day to mimic the travel that refugees undertake every day.
“Care4Calais have been banned from distributing food in Calais because people have something against refugees and have been using Covid-19 as an excuse. Their situation is made so much worse because of the country’s hatred for refugees. I think I wanted to do something for refugees for a while, thinking about Christmas, the weather and it’s an extremely
difficult time for refugees even more so, then the Covid-19 situation has made things even worse for them.”
The experience overall was eye-opening for Warren, the mental and physical exhaustion takes a toll and this is the life that refugees live every day. The fundraiser has raised £670 so far and is still active.
Despite the inevitable dejection from not being taken seriously by adults, young people everywhere are going to keep doing their part, reiterating the importance of youth activism and engaging and communicating with our generation.
“The more people that know about these problems the better. It’s like Amnesty says- it’s about people power, the more people who know and are fighting for change then the better.”
Amnesty International UK will be launching a new sub-committee which Warren will be co-chairing to look into child hunger, austerity and homelessness. They are also in the middle of organising a conference for youth activists which will run alongside Cop 26 (a worldwide climate meeting) in October.
You can donate to Anna’s fundraiser and donate to Care4Calais below.