Published on Arab Voices

Every day is international youth day

Samar Samir Mezghanni is a Tunisian Writer classified as one of the most important young leaders in the Arab region. She has written over a hundred short stories and published 14 books. This is Samar's second contribution to the MENA Blog with the first blog reflecting on her experience at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings.

ImageFrom different corners of the world, youth have been celebrating this particular year in an unexpected way. On International Youth Day, I struggle to reflect on the events made by and for youth during this year.

Ironically, the International Youth Year started as a proposal from the Tunisian president, Zinealabidine Ben Ali, who was forced out by the demands and actions of young people in his country. Being a  22-year-old Tunisian woman who has participated in several youth events inside and outside of Tunisia, I thought that the International Youth year would, once again, be filled with more seminars, meetings, conferences and provide more examples to brag about the government’s  concern and response to youth issues. I expected to hear more resolutions and promises, to witness more youth celebrations, and to remain optimistic as I have always been, and as I have always been asked to be.

But this year, unlike the years before, I was surprised. Something different happened. Just when youth were expected  to express themselves through  bureaucratic  means  addressing their issues in a controlled manner, and  raising their voices in organized settings such as governmental events; people all over the world were astonished and impressed by a different, unexpected and genuine expression. The demonstrations that propagated from the streets of Tunisia to different countries in the Arab region were much more powerful than all the high level youth meetings that have been organized so far, much more authentic than the International Youth Year or the International Youth Day and much more significant than the international youth celebrations. After all the promises for change,  calls for youth empowerment,  speeches about dreams and brighter futures, change emerged from the young people, empowering themselves and realizing their dreams on their own, after waiting so long for a promised change.

Living in Birmingham,  England now where more young people are expressing anger and frustration –although in a different way- made me realize how universal youth issues are; unemployment, marginalization, poverty and a lack of political participation. Yet, the world is still ruled by old people, with old ways of thinking, with old insights and old promises. With each day that passes reveals stories of more successful young people, equipped with  fresh ideas, with more reasons to empower youth, instead of simply celebrating a day designated for youth.

To me, to all the young people in my country and my region, International Youth Day means simply nothing; because this year, we made every day a celebration of youth expression, power, and liberation. For older people, I hope this day will mean to them an occasion to reflect on this new “Youth Year” and confront the reality that in such a dynamic changing post modernity world, every year is an international youth year; every day is an international youth day.

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