International Youth Day (IYD) is an awareness day designated by the United Nations. The purpose of the day is to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding youth. The first IYD was observed on 12 August, 2000. The international youth day 2018 was celebrated few weeks ago with the #safespaces4youthcampaign, as the theme for the event this year was “Safe Spaces for Youth”. Safe spaces could be physical e.g. public places like your University’s library, a school theatre, or a nice little cafe that few people know about. Safe spaces could also be virtual i.e. online like chats on messengers, or blogs and web forums. Wherever they are, we believe safe spaces are important for young people to develop, grow confidence and self-esteem.
According to the Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are five needs of man identified from basic to complex as: physiological, security, love & belonging, self – esteem and self-actualization. Security is just immediately after the physiological needs, this means that we all tend to look for safe places, either good or bad, we just want to be comfortable with people around us, we want to be sure of our own safety – this makes us find solace from anywhere possible. Actualizing these needs is a bit complex for the youths because the youthful age is a vulnerable stage in life where one could be easily influenced by the environment and a safe environment brings good influence and vice versa.
This is very important at this time as many youths suffer from depression and frustration simply because they have no safe spaces to help them believe in themselves and to boost their self-confidence. When these things go wrong, many youths end up with substances and vices which are even more harmful, but in their defense, they say many of these things boost their confidence. The most important places to me are the home, the hospital, educational institutions and religious organizations; these places are an integral part of the adolescent – who grows to become the youth.
Some months ago, I was at a Primary Health Care centre doing my nursing duties, a young lady walked in and asked to see the nurse in charge, I directed her to the right place. She took a few steps and the next thing I heard was a scream; a health care provider screamed at her and insulted her, blamed her for what was wrong with her, blamed her for asking questions and so on. Other patients looked up with judgement written on their face, of course she’s a “young lady” who probably had an abortion or used contraceptives wrongly. I was on my desk; sad and angry as to why such reaction came from her. I reflected on the youth friendly clinic that I was thought in class, I remembered how important it is to give listening ears to adolescents because you don’t have an idea of what they plan to do next. The other nursing students on duty were as sad and unimpressed as I was. I quickly excused myself to run after her as she stepped out but by the time I got to the road, she was nowhere to be found. She probably lived around or used the nearest means of transport.
This is the situation in many homes, schools, churches and mosques. Young people are simply ignored, rejected, judged or condemned for their actions, for their questions, for what they know, for everything – it’s just so sad. Adolescents who have unfriendly and unsafe people and environment end up keeping to themselves or enjoying their own company who are either good or bad, then they are blamed for joining bad gang. Nobody really cares about their reasons for such companies, why not ask them why? Or what went wrong? Instead of putting 100% blame on them. This isn’t excusing the fact that some adolescents are still unhealthy even with safe spaces around them.
Before this article is brought to an end, also as a youth, I’ll like to leave these few notes of importance to everyone; I believe we all should be involved in creating the safe spaces as planned by the UNDP.
To the adolescents – I’ll say we should live towards actualizing our dreams, even as much as we may have more unsafe places or spaces for us, we should work towards finding or creating good safe spaces around for ourselves, could be good friends, good neighbours, mentors and so on.
To our parents and guardians – we know that some of our decisions may be foolish in your eyes, but we ask for more understanding, more patience, more love, less judgement, we want to be safe around you, we want to be able to talk to you about those things that bother us. You can take out some time to ask us questions, ask us about ourselves, let us feel loved and safe with you, sometimes your time and attention is all we need.
To the health care providers – if we are unable to find safe spaces in our homes and we come to the hospital to seek help, you know we are vulnerable, please receive us with open arms, don’t leave us to go back to the unsafe places, teach us how to make good decisions, to live healthy and to actualize our dreams.
To the government – we appreciate the efforts, the ministries that are supposed to cater for us that we rarely see, the commissioners and ministers, the youth leaders who rarely reach the grassroots, we ask for more supervision for the youth, we are the leaders of tomorrow, we ask for safe places in our educational institutions, in our society, we ask for policies that will make us better youths, for projects that will be safe for us to express ourselves, to contribute to the society, to build our confidence, to improve our sense of belonging. More should be done to maximize the youth/adolescent friendly clinic so as to create standard safe spaces for youths.
We all have a role to play, let’s do our part and this world will definitely become a better place – safe for everybody to live in.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2018.
Hacey Health Initiative, 2018