WELCOME TO YACA- By Fr John Glynn
No Organization = No Voice
What is it like to be a young person in Papua New Guinea today? When we read what is written about young people it is all very encouraging – PNG has signed up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Children, and on the rights of everyone else too, like the rights of Women. So on paper – yes! We all have these rights.
BUT when we look at how things really are in practice we see the young people have very few rights at all. What you have is a privilege. You have no right to an education – you have the privilege of an education.
What is the difference between a privilege and a right? Well the privileges are just for a few people – rights are for everybody. In PNG education is for less than half the young people in the country. About half can start school, but only a small number can actually get a full education.
Our rights cannot be taken away from us – but our privileges can be taken away very easily. How can you lose the privilege of your education? Well you could fail an exam and not be allowed to continue in school. Or you could miss too many days in school, or you could not have the money you need, or you could belong to a family that does not want to support your education. Another way is if your teachers refuse to teach you – and don’t come to the classroom and give their lessons, or if the school locks you out because you come late in the morning.
None of these things can happen to you if you are in school in Australia, or Japan or America, or anywhere where education is a right and not a privilege. And you and your family are in big trouble if you do not go to school – because education is not just a right – it is compulsory.
What YACA wants to do is give young people a voice, but the only way that young people can get a voice is by getting organized. And that organization must come from the young people themselves – it cannot be imposed from on top.
This is a young country – in that the number of young people is very great. If young people can organize themselves they can speak together with a very loud, strong voice that our leaders must listen to. The way it is now is that our leaders do not want to listen to anybody! They certainly do not want to listen to young people. They will talk to you of course, and they will tell you that you are ‘the future leaders of our country’ but they do not want you to be leaders of today!
In other countries the political parties have what they call Youth Wings. Young people are encouraged to join a political party from the age of 12 or so up. The Youth Wing of the party helps their members to develop leadership skills and take part in discussions and planning within the party. The youngest person I have heard of who got elected to Parliament was a young woman who was 18 years old – a member of the Greens since she was 12 – who was elected to a State of Parliament in Germany some years ago.
In our country you can vote at 18 but you cannot stand for Election until you are 25. Our leaders do not like young people who should be seen and not heard.
YACA is based on a very simple idea. Corruption in our country is everywhere- from top to bottom. It is very difficult to oppose corruption because those who practice corruption want everyone else to be corrupt too. There is huge pressure on young people to practice corruption, and to do nothing and say nothing when they see others being corrupt.
There is pressure on you to accept it is okay to buy stolen property on the street. There is pressure on you to accept that it is okay to take things lying around that are not protected by their owner. There is pressure on you to accept that it is okay to pay a bribe to get into school. And on, and on, and on....
What YACA does is to ask you to make a Pledge, a sincere and serious promise that you will not practice corruption. And to make this pledge every day of your life until you become a person of honesty and integrity – a good citizen.
And then we ask you to organize – to get together in a YACA group. This is where you can talk, debate, plan activities, get in touch with other groups, take part in joint events. And this is where you can have fun too. Being a member of YACA must be fun too!
Every YACA group is independent. The one big thing that is the same about every group is the Pledge- every YACA member memorises the pledge and says it every day.
What TIPNG does is provide a Secretariat. This is really just the office, where planning and organization of events for all groups can be done, and where material assistance for the groups can be organized.
The TIPNG Youth Office can arrange training sessions for YACA members too. Arianne will tell you about this at the right time. You see, one of the most important things we want to do is train up young leaders. Now leadership requires all sorts of skills, but the most important of them can be described like this; A good leader is inspired – has a fire in their belly that makes them eager to act- and a good leader is able to inspire others. A good leader is highly motivated to achieve a goal –and is able to motivate others. And a good leader is empowered to act – and knows how to empower others. To be a good and effective leader you must be able to Inspire, Motivate and Empower – first yourself then others.
So there is a challenge for you young people. Do you want to take it up? Do you want to have a voice? Do you want to develop leadership skills? Do you want to organise? Or do you want to sit around on your bottom waiting for someone else to push you around, tell you what you can do and cannot do, and warn you to keep your mouth shut and accept everything bad that happens without complaint?
Nobody else can create YACA – nobody else can organize our young people – nobody else but only you!