The provincial government has committed to developing and implementing a poverty reduction plan – and BC’s young people have shown that their voice will not be lost in this conversation. During the last several months, we engaged youth in the consultation process to make sure their priorities are included. Keep reading to hear about this amazing youth-led work!
731 surveys responses collected online
An online survey went live from February to March to allow as many youth as possible to share their opinions on the cost of living in BC and the financial pressures they experience. Reaching university campuses, high schools, and community organizations- an incredible 731 youth shared their opinions!
We asked youth a range of questions – from how financially secure they feel, to what costs they’re struggling with most, to the impacts of these costs on their lives.
The survey revealed important realities about youth lives day to day. In a nutshell, we discovered that many youth in BC are struggling. Some highlights from the survey include, that due the cost of living:
- 42% of youth feel overwhelmed
- 34% of youth experience mental/ physical/ familial stress
- 25% sleep less and 15% are skipping meals
These findings speak to the fact that this is an issue that affects youth deeply, and as such, the response to it must strongly account for the youth voice.
7 youth met with Minister Shane Simpson
On March 21, 7 youth came together to lead an evening of dialogue with key stakeholders in the area of poverty reduction. Guests included Shane Simpson, the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Trish Garner with BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, and Deborah Irvine from the Vancouver Foundation. The event was held in collaboration with the Youth Advocacy Committee at the Broadway Youth Resource Centre (BYRC).
Youth took the lead on this opportunity to unpack the systemic forces that shape our health and wellness. We explored lived experiences of the cost of living and its impact in BC, as well as the findings from youth-led community consultations and the online survey.
Finally, we discussed next steps, what the key priority areas for youth are, and how to continue youth’s engagement on this issue.
5 youth leaders facilitated community consultations across Lower Mainland
Youth volunteers from our network participated in 7 community consultations in the Lower Mainland as facilitators of small table discussions. This has served as a learning and leadership development opportunity, as well as a way to encourage more youth in the community to attend.
Youth engaged their peers, community members, and other stakeholders to lead the dialogue around 2 questions – 1. What are the issues facing people in poverty and 2. What would help address those issues?
Having youth representation as facilitators was an key part of inviting other youth into these spaces and making sure their concerns and input was heard.
3 community youth-focused consultations co-organized
3 youth-focused and youth organized consultations were held in the Lower Mainland this Spring to have youth facilitate dialogues with youth on poverty.
On February 27, 2018, BYRC youth from the Youth Advocacy Committee organized and led a Town Hall Meeting to engage youth on two main questions – “what are the biggest financial pressures you face as youth?” and “what supports and/or services do we as youth need to live a full life?” A dot-mocracy exercise was used to determine what youth identify as their top 3 priorities, and potential action items to respond to these priority areas.
The UBC student community came out to two events around poverty reduction on their university campus in March. The UBC Centre for Engaged Learning organized a youth-centered consultation on March 7. Here are some reflections from students in an introductory philosophy class who attended the event.
UBC Trek Program also organized an event on Poverty Reduction later that month. These collaborative efforts allowed the student voice to shine – highlighting the unique challenges of university students, such as the cost of tuition, housing unaffordability, and much more.
1 submission on youth priorities for poverty reduction submitted to BC government
Pulling from the data and insights from these activities, Check Your Head and the Broadway Youth Resource Centre made a submission to the provincial government on March 31, called “Youth Priorities on Poverty Reduction.” This report highlighted the feedback from nearly 1000 youth in the Lower Mainland on their experience of the cost of living in BC and their personal stories. This is a crucial step forward in realizing social justice for a foundational part of our communities – our youth.
Here are just some of the stories shared by youth:
“I do not sleep well because I am so worried. I often work late nights and spend all day at school. This makes it hard to do simple things such as grocery shopping or doing homework.”
“The cost of living makes me feel as if I will never be able to afford to be completely independent. Since starting university, I have had to work 3 jobs and thus have less time to study than a student who does not have to work.”
2 Youth Interviews with Megaphone Magazine and Other Blog Posts
In March, Dakota Shelby and Janani Ravikularam, shared their thoughts on poverty reduction and the role of youth advocacy with Megaphone Magazine.
We explored critical perspectives on the role of young voices in political spaces and how inclusive they currently are to youth. Dakota and Janani also shared their personal experiences being involved in the poverty reduction projects, and looked to the future – unpacking the potential that youth have to create social and economic change.
Read this story in the latest Megaphone Magazine issue – sold by vendors across Vancouver and Victoria!
Our youth also published writing pieces on the Check Your Head blog on various youth issues. Check out Dakota’s piece, Poverty Shouldn’t Equal Patronizing, Naia Lee’s piece on how students can reduce poverty, and Janani’s discussion of child poverty.
Fair Wages Commission
We also engaged youth with the provincial Fair Wages commission consultations which examined the minimum wage. We circulated information about how to participate in the process and supported high school students in presenting at the hearing in Vancouver. They shared their peers’ and their own experiences around employment and earning an income, calling for minimum wage increase with no exemptions. They also submitted their recommendations in writing.
The commissioners personally thanked the youth delegation for participating, acknowledging that youth perspectives have been largely missing from the process up until that point.
Learn more about the Commission and read their reports here.
“Nothing about us without us”
From these projects, we’ve seen young people continue to show the power of youth advocacy and exemplifying that they engage in deep and critical conversations about what happens in their communities and to their peers. There is no better way to respond to the perspectives and needs of youth, than by directly engaging young people in these dialogues.
Stay tuned for exciting projects to come and continued opportunities for young people to create systemic change!
We gratefully acknowledge the support from the Province of BC, the Vancouver Foundation, our labour union partners and individual supporters in enabling us to undertake youth consultations and producing the Youth Priorities for Poverty Reduction submission. We greatly enjoyed working with the Broadway Youth Resource Centre and its Youth Advocacy Committee, and also extend our thanks to Trish Garner and Omar Chu from the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition for their guidance and support.