The rise of youth activism

April 20, 2021

Collage by Exposure; the boys in the back by Sam Balye on Unsplash, fist by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Olivia Opara considers why more young people are taking action to make their world a better place

At the end of last month, students at Pimlico Academy, a London secondary school, organised a protest. A protest against their headteacher’s decisions to ban afro hair and colourful hijabs, a new uniform policy that had come into effect last August. You can read more on this here.

After rising tensions had become unbearable, the students came together and organised a sit-in protest not only against the new uniform but also against the school’s union flag, according to a report in the Guardian.

Trending on Twitter as #PimlicoAcademy, the students kept those of us on the outside updated. Many students had shared videos of them walking out of the classrooms and sitting in the school playground.

Others shared tweets about the internal backlash they were facing with one even saying, “#PimlicoAcademy has locked the astroturf and has told everyone to go upstairs straight away. Blocking our democratic right to protest whilst advocating for democracy.”

The obvious discrimination behind the now amended uniform policy is not the main focus of this piece, not to say that it’s insignificant. However, it’s the actions of the students that I personally admire. Not only were they rightfully angry, but they took action. Action that has resulted in positive change for them and their school environment.

BlackLivesMatter Protest; photo by Orna Wachman from Pixabay

Last year saw a steep rise in social movements and that energy has continued with us into the new year

Through recent decades, there have been discussions about lowering the voting age to 16 but the proposal has been shut down time and time again with the argument that young people don’t know anything or like my father says, “You know nothing about adult life.” And though there is some truth in that statement, it ignores the fact that despite being young, the youth of this country are politically aware.

The London Voter Registration Week of 2020 saw a 23% increase in youth voters, statistically demonstrating how young people are becoming more vocal in demanding change for the betterment of our futures.

Reflecting on the Pimlico Protest, I have been considering why we are now more politically proactive.

Last year saw a steep rise in social movements and that energy has continued into the new year. Across social media, young people are sharing and posting about current social and political issues from their communities and from around the world.

From these connections, there seems to be a sense of solidarity between the young about how abysmal the travesties, on an international level, are. Maybe this is down to my generation (Gen Z) having grown up during the age of technology where we are continually surrounded by information and where we’re more comfortable sharing our lived experiences with others.

We’re discovering the impact we can have when we utilise our voices to raise awareness about the injustices we feel and see

Could it be that we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes as the generations before us?

I think that although we are still young and naive in terms of how life works and how to manoeuvre through it, we do know how to exercise our rights, as demonstrated by the Pimlico Academy students.

Being tech-savvy and with the Internet at our fingertips, we are now learning, researching and discovering the impact we can have when we utilise our voices to raise awareness about the injustices we feel and see.

As there continues to be injustice, I believe young people will continue breaking out of their shells to demand change. I strongly believe that as we continue having difficult discussions, our want and need to facilitate change will not dwindle.

So, I believe that it is not wrong to say that there will be many more protests to come. And even if the voting age remains the same, it is indeed promising to know that Generation Z will be voting in the elections to come.