#16Days: Nishant Rao, Co-Founder CommonYouth Australia

For 16 Days of Activism, we’ve been shining a spotlight on youth activists from around the world. CommonYouth Australia is a Canberra based, youth-led initiative that provides opportunities for youth engagement and a platform for discussion on global topics. We met with Co-Founder Nishant Rao at the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2015…

What does youth activism mean to you?

Most if not all young people should be considered activists in and of themselves - I think youth have the education and motivation to promote change, young people are the leaders.

That’s what we’ve been discussing here at the Commonwealth Youth Forum - how we can add value, and what we can do next.

What's CommonYouth Australia all about?

I’m part of an organisation called CommonYouth Australia that tries to facilitate young people engagement with the commonwealth. What we try to do is link up stories and give a personal reflection of a range of issues, and one of them is women’s rights. Girls' rights should be a universal issue – we’re slowly starting to see it build, but we still need to push the ultimate objective of promoting women’s rights on the global agenda.

Where there are policies to promote gender equality inside organisations, organisations have a stronger foundation to advocate for women’s rights externally.

We particularly take first steps in terms of promoting gender equality within our own organisation. I think this is so important – where there are policies to promote gender equality inside organisations, organisations have a stronger foundation to advocate for women’s rights externally.

What can governments and international organisations do to support youth-led activism?

There’s a lot of focus on funding, but governments can help in a lot of other ways, in particularly linking up organisations with the relevant people. Young people don’t always have the expertise they need to implement particular action plans.

If governments can link us up with the relevant academics, UN agencies or anyone working in the field to give us a better perspective on how we can implement our ideas, that would be really helpful. In terms of that influencing capacity, that’s very important.

What can youth activists do to be more effective?

I think one of the problems with youth activism can be that we’re all acting individually and pursuing our own goals. That’s fantastic – but if we can identify a shared network based on shared values, like the Commonwealth or similar agencies, we can become a lot stronger. Together we can become much more visible, and exponentially more impactful.

We can move away on focusing just on our own cultural values and towards recognising some values of diversity and identity as well.

Find the rest of our #16Days series here.