Young people represent a significant portion of the region’s population who are affected by the changes brought about by the pandemic. Whilst it appears young people are less affected by immediate health issues, the longer-term economic shock will have severe consequences for the “lockdown generation”. The International Labor Organization reports that globally more than one in six young people are out of work as a result of the pandemic, while those who remain employed face a 23% cut in their working hours.
Young people are bringing a fresh perspective to Covid-19 problems and solutions. Photo: ADB
Nonetheless, we know young people are resilient and possess a number of qualities that are relevant today in working with local communities and tackling this global challenge. Here are six examples of how have young people have responded to this crisis and what lessons can be drawn from their experiences:
1. Young people provide behavioural insights and peer-to-peer training on the impacts of the pandemic on communities and young people in the region. Owren, 25, supports the running of the Indonesia Youth Financial Inclusion Ambassadors program, which identified that a majority of young people in the country are neither aware about the concept of saving nor are equipped with basic financial management skills. With many young people without access to personal savings and emergency funds, they risk not being able to cope with life after the pandemic and build for their future.
2. Young people are caring and responsible citizens wanting to help. While working from home in Vietnam, Minh, 26, found ways to reach out to her community by supporting a local non-profit initiative that grants financial support to kindergarten teachers who were unemployed as a result of school closures during the lockdown. Minh helped with the screening and interview process of over 1,500 applications. By having these conversations with the teachers, Minh realized the importance of lending a helping hand to those in need especially during these times.
3. Young people use their digital literacy skills to fact check and share valuable information to their peers and local communities. Although the Marshall Islands is one of a handful of countries without any Covid-19 cases, the island nation has been taking precautionary measures to avoid the arrival of the pandemic. With current information overload about Covid-19 on social media channels and other media platforms, Carlon, 19, is working with local authorities and other grassroots organizations, leading advocacy efforts to encourage young people in his community to be well-informed and well-educated about what is happening around them. This way, responsible well-informed young people can contribute to reduce hearsay and false information while at the same time, limit the stereotypes to lessen rumors, stress, and panic among peers.
4. Young people are disruptive, innovative thinkers. Donghun, 27, from the Republic of Korea developed two digital applications, the Coronamap and Maskmap, as a response to the spread of false information regarding the availability of supplies in his country. The Coronamap is a real-time tracker that aims to identify the location of current cases, while the Maskmap provides information on the supply of face masks available and where best to purchase them. Over 43 million users have come across his applications and he is now working with the government’s national information society to better inform citizens.
5. Young people are resilient and resourceful. Shrey, 25, an disabled athlete from India, has pursued his education and is working with the Special Olympics. He learned quickly to adjust to using digital platforms to participate in virtual meetings and receive online feedback from his lecturers. From learning about these platforms, he now teaches about them in his free time helping his fellow athletes at the Special Olympics adjust with online social interactions by providing live training sessions. He also started growing his own YouTube channel with the aim of inspiring other people with disabilities to keep pursuing their ambitions despite the present uncertainties.
6. Young people are natural collaborators. Ramesh, 22, from Nepal, sees the value of being united in overcoming the challenges of the pandemic. In his village, he has coordinated with local organizations to not only spread awareness about hygienic practices, but also to raise awareness of another crisis: domestic violence against women. In working with Plan Nepal and the Women’s Rehabilitation Center, he advocates for women to be more capable of fighting for their rights during this time and seeking justice for those who have been abused in the household. He sees the pandemic as something that goes beyond religion, gender, and social status. It is only by battling it together that humanity can overcome this crisis.
The stories and experience of these individuals illustrate that young people today are playing an active role in overcoming the pandemic. They also demonstrate the value that young people bring to development work.
Chris Morris is Principal Social Development Specialist (NGO Center), Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, ADB.
Joaquim Sanvictores is Senior Youth Regional Program Manager.