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Greta and Malala get the headlines, but for every young leader pictured on a magazine cover, thousands more are working tirelessly for causes like climate justice, racial and gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and economic change.
That's the message from Jessica Taft, a leading scholar on youth activism who says today's young leaders are building on the legacy of their predecessors who helped desegregate the South, reformed education in Chile, and won rights for working youth in Bolivia.
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"Around the world, we are seeing children and youth engage as social, political, and economic actors, demonstrating their capacity to help make social change," said Taft, an associate professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at UC Santa Cruz. "Adults make a lot of assumptions about children and what they're capable of, and those assumptions are often quite false."
Taft, the author of Rebel Girls and the new book The Kids Are in Charge: Activism and Power in Peru's Movement of Working Children, spoke days before the Sept. 20 global, youth-led climate strike. She has spent more than a decade studying children's rights and intergenerational activism.
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"Youth, given the opportunity to work alongside adults who are willing to manage their own power, can lead activist communities and organizations," she said. "To not include them is anti-democratic. They deserve to be listened to, to be seen as collaborators and treated as equals."
Recent decades have seen children and youth invited to participate in civic and political activities through schools and municipal children's councils, said Taft. But participating in adult-driven institutions is distinct from what has been unfolding in Peru for 40 years. As Taft details in The Kids Are in Charge, Peru is home to a "horizontal," child-led movement of about 10,000 young people ages 8-16.
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The Movement of Working Children is focused on recognizing children as social, political, and...
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