As we approach the New Year, it is important to think about how young people can become more involved as global citizens interested in global issues and their solutions. As a Teen Advisor for Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign raising funds and awareness for UN programs that benefit girls, I have talked to countless teenagers about their role in making the world a better place for all. Many are unsure about where to begin or do not think that they can make a difference, but I believe that they simply do not understand how easy it can be. Here are four actions that anyone, but especially teenagers, can take to help create lasting change:
1. Educate yourself. Read up on issues that you care about to be as knowledgeable as possible. Nicholas Kristof’s regular column in the New York Times is a good place to start for the latest information on international as well as domestic issues. His book and documentary, Half the Sky, is a powerful way to learn about global issues affecting girls and women.
2. Advocate. Make your voice heard! Meet with your elected officials to discuss pending legislation that matters to you, or send them an e-mail or letter. Don’t feel intimidated about meeting with your congressperson—they love to hear from their constituents, especially young people. The bill that I am passionate about is H.R. 6087 which lays out the U.S. plan for helping to end child marriage in foreign countries, and I plan to meet with my representative to discuss her support for it.
3. Spread the word. Use social media to raise awareness about causes you care about. Tweets, Facebook status, and other posts have the potential to reach hundreds of people and take only seconds to write.
4. Host an event. Don’t be intimidated—events don’t have to be elaborate or hard to plan. Ask a local restaurant to host a Charity Night where they give a certain percentage of one night’s profit to your organization. Alternatively, host a screening of a relevant documentary at your house or school and donate the admission fee.
The number of young people has never been higher, so we can be key allies in creating lasting peace in the world. Whether teenagers or young adults, I firmly believe that if we join together to make a difference in our own future, 2013 will be a watershed year for youth’s involvement in sustainable global peace.