Comment on Youth in Development by Guest Blogger Tania Khojasteh

screen-shot-2010-02-09-at-123615-pmAfter working for years in youth development internationally (Ethiopia and Kenya), last year I worked with a group of youth in the Rexdale area of Toronto for the first time. As I worked with these youth in this marginalized and impoverished community, I began to ask myself the question, what does “development” mean to youth? Especially youth who are being “developed”.

My job as a Youth Program Manager had me working with youth to understand issues of poverty, racial discrimination, confidence building and mentorship last summer.  The more involved I got with this group of youth, the more resistance I experienced from them, which led me to these questions:

  • What does it mean to a young person living in poverty in Canada to be involved in the process of change?
  • Do these youth wonder why in a “developed” country they are experiencing “underdevelopment” (poverty)?
  • Does this gap between the “rich” and the “poor” make them angry and frustrate them to the point of complete indifference and aloofness?
  • Do they feel that since they are a minority locked in the effects of poverty and marginalisation that their efforts would not make meaningful change?

After all, youth in Ethiopia and Kenya live in communities where poverty strikes most and the experience is a communal one – but in Toronto this is clearly not the case. A youth living in Rexdale has to travel 10 minutes before reaching “rich” areas of town. So does this sense of isolation and division have an impact on the average (Rexdale) youth’s motivation for mobilisation? NGOs are raising awareness about the effectiveness of youth activism in underdeveloped countries but what about doing more in the West? Have we decided that we are developed enough? What will it mean for the future of Canada if we have a generation of youth who feel so disillusioned about the underdevelopment they experience that they are not prepared to stand up to oppression?

My somewhat rhetorical questions above have become my daily food for thought.

Ultimately, I believe development is an ongoing process. We are never done. And perhaps by labelling our nation as “developed,” we risk thinking that our job is done, and not mind the “gaps” that live right in our backyards.

Tags: , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply