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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Youth in an intergenerational society

by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
August 16, 2004; posted at www.thefreeman.com

ONE of the most important pieces I delivered as an orator back in high school was on the International Youth Year. As far as my memory could take me, my line blazing with youthful idealism went went: “The international youth year emphasizes primary importance on what the youth can do towards active participation in nation building. Ask any youth what he can do for a better government, he will request you: Direct and I will obey, guide and I will follow”.

August 12 was declared International Youth Day. By choosing “Youth in an intergenerational society” for a theme, the United Nations reportedly wants to stress the importance of solidarity between generations at all levels - in families, communities, and nations.

United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan points out that in the future, the interdependence of younger and older people would increase. Youth development is a prerequisite to meeting the growing care demands of older people, and a condition for the development of society as a whole.

It maybe true that today’s society is the youngest ever, at almost 50% of the world’s population as 25 years or under, but Annan says “societies are slowly aging”.

An estimate shows that by 2050, the population of people older than 65 will have almost quadrupled, while the proportion of children will have declined by a third. This estimate implies that by the middle of this century, the old and the young will represent an equal share of the world’s population.

What is asked of today’s youth is not only to be cool, but to be very, very cool! And being cool is to take to heart intergenerational issues such as participation in an aging society where youth development is a necessity to meet the growing demands of the older population and to take a role in related voluntary works.

Another is having an intergenerational perspective on HIV and AIDS as these are youth problems too. With five new victims per minute, young people are the most effected by the epidemic. And unlike most diseases, HIV and AIDS are reported generally to kill not just one, but both parents. Millions of children are orphaned as a result of AIDS. Grandparents are often tasked with the care of their grandchildren. And many youth with HIV and AIDS suffer from the stigma and the discrimination from outside and within their families.

Above all, the youth of today are called to combat transmission of poverty from one generation to the next. In combating poverty, generations within families depend on each other. Without interventions related to education, health and employment, poverty tends to deepen when one gets older.

The band P.O.D’s carrier track blurted out the anthem “We know we are the youth of the nation”. It may be well applauded. But the real and cool score should be “We are! We are! Yes, we are the youth, and we take responsibility for those who came before us.We are not only youths of this nation, but of the world!”

Our hopes, our views, the kind of life we will choose will have a domino effect on other sectors of society we must learn to live interdependently with.(/30)