Children are protagonists in a fight for their own wellbeing, author says on eve of rally

by Freya Lucas

September 19, 2019

The Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Aged Care both speak about children being confident and involved learners, with the educators caring for them seeking to notice, recognise and respond to moments of learning which demonstrate children being valued and respected as strong, competent and capable learners. 


Each framework takes care to point out the role of children and young people as custodians of the planet, encouraging educators to weave lessons and learnings on sustainable practice into their curriculum. 


It is both this context, and the rise of youth activism globally, which have given rise to Jessica Taft, leading scholar on youth activism using the eve of the 20 September youth led climate strike to call on adults, including early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators, to pay attention, saying children as young as eight years old are mobilising to create real and powerful change on issues of global consequence. 


Children and young people in 150 countries will strike tomorrow, Friday 20 September, in a coordinated protest of inaction on climate change. The massive action is being led by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.


Ms Thunberg’s actions, Ms Taft says, are an example of the way in which, around the world, “we are seeing children and youth engage as social, political, and economic actors, demonstrating their capacity to help make social change.”

“There is a stubborn resistance to treating young people’s political activism as normal, but the truth is that it’s neither extraordinary nor exceptional,” Ms Taft noted. “Children and youth are not on the sidelines. They are protagonists in the fight for their rights and their well being.”

The capacity for children being educated and cared for in outside school hours care (OSHC) settings to “work tirelessly for causes like climate justice, racial and gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and economic change” and create social change cannot be ignored, Ms Taft said. 


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.


“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 Ms Taft, who is 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.”


Ms Taft is most widely known for her work Rebel Girls and the new book The Kids Are in Charge: Activism and Power in Peru’s Movement of Working Children. She has spent more than a decade studying children’s rights and intergenerational activism.


“Youth, given the opportunity to work alongside adults who are willing to manage their own power, can lead activist communities and organisations,” she said. “To not include them is anti-democratic. They deserve to be listened to, to be seen as collaborators and treated as equals.”


“I’ve seen 12-year-olds facilitate meetings better than 35-year-olds,” she said. “We need to decouple experience and age. Sometimes the youngest kids get listened to the most.”


“Developmental psychologists tell us that how people develop depends on the social, cultural, and political contexts of where they’re developing,” she said. “The exclusion of children from political engagement isn’t inevitable. It’s a product of cultural assumptions about childhood and adulthood.” she added.


To learn more about tomorrow’s climate rally, please see here