Before I even start, I would like to clarify that, while this is definitely an article about politics, and my own views might at one point shine through, this article does not take a political side. I am merely proposing ways to politically engage within your own community- which issues or parties you decide to support is your own choice and this article will not dictate a certain political viewpoint.
Politics influence our daily lives on an enormous scale, more so than we might realize. It’s not just about which party has the majority, who the president is and who the prime minister, and it isn’t black and white. Politics can be extremely complicated, but even small changes can change the world we live in and the values that we put an emphasis on. For example, taxation, easily one of the most boring topics to young people, isn’t just about financing healthcare, schools and roads. What your party wants to tax can have a wide influence; for example, if they choose to tax cars in the city heavily, people might be more tempted to use public transport! Or if they choose to decrease taxes on organic products, it might be cheaper to buy organic veggies from the supermarket.
Growing up, I was encouraged to be politically engaged and active. In my country, the voting age is set very low, so young people are taught to form their political views very early in life. I’ve joined many activist groups and volunteered or political organizations, and it’s a huge part of my identity. I think it’s very important, especially in this day and age, to fight for the causes you’re passionate about- for me, this is mainly issues related to climate change and immigration.
The first step is to stay informed! After all, if you don’t stay informed how can you shape your own political views or know what’s going on? Watch the news, listen to the radio, read the newspapers- anything that works with your schedule. Make sure not only to consume media that backs up your own viewpoints, but challenge yourself by engaging with media that doesn’t necessarily confirm what you already believe. In an ideal world, media would be completely unbiased, but most newspapers or TV stations have a more or less strong bias, or a specific target audience. Inform yourselves about issues from different points of view and different sources to really get to know the issue.
The most valuable way you can contribute to your chosen candidate’s campaign or to a political or activist cause is by volunteering your time. No matter if it’s passing out flyers on the street, working a booth at an event or helping out with organisational matters. You can search for volunteering opportunities on the internet, and most political parties have an extra section on their website.
Most parties have youth groups that you can join where you can meet with like-minded people, have your voice heard, discuss your opinions and shape your political views. They’re great places to engage not only politically but socially! If you’re looking for something more formal, and a way to really bring your voice and concerns to the table, you could join a youth parliament or youth council! These are organized on a local, regional, state and even international level. Besides encouraging debating skills and political engagement, depending on where you are these can be ways to actually have your ideas and opinions heard.
Join protests and protest for or against issues you’re passionate about! Protests are especially fun to go to with friends, and you might even make new friends there. Don’t be shy about protesting. It takes a while to get used to, and sometimes you need some time to build up the courage to actually make some noise, but being there is all that counts! If you have the budget, you can combine protesting with travelling and see some parts of your own home country you never knew existed! Remember to stay safe at protests, stay with friends and leave immediately if you feel unsafe.
Here’s yet another thing for you to join: Activist groups! There’s international ones with various local divisions like Amnesty International, Red Cross or Greenpeace, or more local ones, maybe even ones that are specific to your town! Being part of an activist group is a great way to stay informed about any protests or events as well as connecting you with like-minded people from all over.
The most direct way you can influence politics is to vote, if you can! In some countries, like Austria or Malta, you can vote at 16, but most countries allow you to vote at age 18. If you think that should be lowered so younger people can vote as well, why not let that be the first thing you fight for!
No matter what issues or parties you decide to support, it’s important to be politically active and try to shape the world the way you want it to be. It’s in your power to contribute to and shape the political and social climate around you. There’s so many opportunities to really influence politics all around you, so why not use them to their full extent?
Teenagers With Experience is an online platform ran by teenagers for teenagers. We provide support through sharing our own experiences and providing advice based from this. If you need support, feel free to reach out to us on one of our social media platforms. We will do our best to support you and if we feel we cannot we will direct you to more suited, professional support.