Voices from Latin America and Africa

Young citizens are at the crossroads. Since they find themselves in a state of transition between childhood and adulthood, they experience a number of obstacles and opportunities that shape the ways in which they seek to become active recognised citizens. While being unable to obtain the respect, status, influence and social responsibilities associated with adulthood, they are simultaneously at the forefront in driving social and political change.

The purpose of this study and learning process is to generate new knowledge about how children and youth in the South articulate and practice citizenship. The study sets out to explore how citizenship is practiced ‘from below’ by focusing on children and youth’s concrete experiences, concerns and aspirations; on how they practice citizenship in their day-to-day interactions, and on the possibilities and obstacles they face in becoming fully recognised and active citizens.

The working hypothesis of the study is that new ways of practising citizenship are being invented by the young generation. Increasingly, children and youth employ alternative avenues to affect social and political change.

The use of social media as a basis for political mobilisation, the production of music and poems to inspire demands for justice and recognition, and the organisation of public happenings to stimulate experiences of solidarity, are just some of the ways in which they practice citizenship in creative - and often unexpected - ways. These new practices reflect a marginalisation or alienation from decision-making in the formal sphere. While children and youth may be granted formal citizenship, it does not always translate into substantive citizenship.

In order to encompass the fact the civil and political rights are unequally distributed, the study privileges a focus on how children and youth make claims to citizenship in their daily lives: in schools, in clubs, on street corners, at the football field, through media, and in other social and political spaces they navigate on a daily basis. This focus moves from the abstract to the concrete, and direct attention towards the ways in which children and youth seek to carve out space for substantive citizenship.

The overall aim of the study and learning process is to enable NGOs to better understand how citizenship is practiced ‘from below’ in particular social and political worlds, and thus to identify examples and ways forward in regard to supporting children and youth in becoming active and fully recognised citizens.

By Maya Mynster Christensen,The Danish Child and Youth Network

Young Citizens at Crossroads. Voices from Latin America and Africa