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Fighting for our rights

But, ironically, not to party. Young people have clubbed together to tackle youth discrimination in shops and town centres, spearheaded by 16-year-old Jessica Robinson through a very modern medium, Facebook. The group which currently stands at 1232 members is continually growing. I interviewed her about how the group started and how she is instigating change currently.

When asked what inspired her to start the group, she said “I was fed up of being discriminated against purely because of my age. One mainstream store told me that young people were not allowed to enter their shop anymore because "young people steal"… I basically started the group through frustration and I wanted to do something about it, I also wanted to see how many other people felt the same.” Describing a separate incident, she told me about how her local shopping centre told her group of 6 friends to split up when they had gone there to shop, not loiter. They told her that the group rule was only applied to young people because "young people were the ones who cause the trouble". Anyone with even a very loose grip on reality will know that it is completely wrong to label an entire generation based on the behaviour of a – very small – minority.

In June of this year, the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) contacted Jessica through the Facebook group and introduced her to their Young Equals campaign. She went on to speak at Parliament in the hope of getting the law changed so that under 18s are included in the Equality Bill that is being debated at the moment. In September, she was invited to the Liberal Democrat and Labour party conferences with the Children’s Society when I asked her about nerves, she said, “I was less nervous because I had done my speech at the Houses of Parliament, so I knew already that the reaction was going to be positive and everyone there was really supportive.”

During these speeches, she spoke about her experience of youth discrimination and how it has affected her “as a young person in today’s society” and how it inspired her to start the group. She thought it went well, even though “Gordon Browns’ speech… completely supported the negative and discouraging attitudes towards young people today. As for the effects of these speeches in terms of changing laws to give today’s youth more rights, Jessica said that “it would be a dream come true! But…listening to Gordon Browns’ speech, I think that we have a lot more convincing to do yet”.

She is right, there is a lot to be done and she’s under no illusions about what she has undertaken and has realised that she cannot do this on her own. The media have to get involved in changing public opinion about the youth of today. This is the change Jessica is hoping to see first, before the changes in law. This doesn’t mean her feeling about changes in policies are any less strong, she believes we cannot “call ourselves a democratic state of equal rights when our own equality bill excludes a whole generation”. There is no doubt that Jessica and other campaigners like her do believe that eventually, with enough effort and perseverance, teenagers will affect “real change” in how society sees them.


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Posted in: News by SoulRiser on December 6, 2009 @ 11:37 PM

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