Government policies have pushed most of us under 35 into a prison of poverty. Nurses are going to food banks, while teachers work second jobs to clothe their kids. Most of us under 30 cannot afford children, even if we wanted them. We live in a four bedroom flat, shared with 30 something professionals, worried about the water bill.

Latest figures show 4 million children in the UK live in poverty and it is set to rise to 5 million by 2020.”(fn) In today’s Britain, there is no certainty our young will live with a full belly, one job to pay the bills and a home not shared by their parents: no matter how hard they work.

Austerity is robbing people of their dignity and freedom. It forces people to beg, borrow and steal in order to survive. It is murdering people. Despite everything against them, our young are seeking out honesty and illumination. With creative grit, they are building their own media platforms and organised spaces to lift up the moral consciousness of this country. They tell us change is coming.

The young, and young at heart are building movements to pull the bars of poverty apart. With anger and hopeful energy, they are critically looking at the problems of our country and taking action: a recipe for changing the world. Don’t take my word for it; listen to Mandela.

Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom. Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela with young people in a crowd. Sun is shining.

Nelson Mandela is surrounded by young supporters after addressing residents at Phola Park, a squatter settlement east of Johannesburg, 31 May 1992. Image: Walter Dhladla/Getty MIT:

Mandela was a man who knew a lot about changing the world. History shows us when things get fudged up, you better hope for youth action. Martin Luther King Jr. was only 25 when he led the bus boycott. The 1960 sit-ins against segregation, across America, were led by students. It is not only the civil rights movement; any movement that has brought change was won off the hope, hard work and fearlessness of youth.

In the last general election, contrary to the predicted Tory landslide, there was a “youthquake”(fn), almost bringing government to a standstill. This was just a flex of young muscle; there is much more to come. Voting is a habit. Once you start voting, you often keep voting. Their power will continue to grow, and it is likely, young folks will not wait for the ballot box. They are getting organised, up and down the country. There may be poverty in their pockets, but there is no poverty of spirit.

The responsible rebellion from our young is here. There is no guarantee change will happen, but whether we show up, has everything to do with it. Going forward, our young people a real seat at the table, and be given the power to make meaningful choices in a world that too often undermines them. Our ears should be open to what they have to say. We must step back so that they can step forward, into spaces where it is so often dominated by the people that look, sound, and behave the same. It must be our priority to train our young people with everything we know. With them leading, we might, just might, stand a chance of reaching peace.

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