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International Youth Day: Providing #SafeSpaces4Youth for an Inclusive Indonesia





On August 12, we celebrate a day dedicated to the world’s biggest population: International Youth Day. This year’s theme #SafeSpaces4Youth highlighted the need to provide young people with safe spaces so that youth have the liberty to voice their opinion without the fear of being marginalized. In a country with a large youth population as Indonesia, providing safe spaces for youth is one of the very first steps in making Indonesia an inclusive country. Inclusivity ensures young people to grow in a positive direction and lead them to be the main drivers of the country’s peace and prosperity.


Being one of the most populous countries in the world, Indonesia’s youth population has reached over 61 million people. Despite being a part of the largest generation group, many young Indonesians still struggle from social exclusion. According to Asia Foundation, youth who struggle with unconventional life condition are often stigmatized and stereotyped. Street children and youth with disability are two of the many youth groups in Indonesia that are vulnerable to the risk of social exclusion. In the context of personal development, social exclusion challenges youth in optimizing their full potential and disrupts young people’s transition to adulthood. However once seen from a bigger picture, social exclusion is also a threat to the harmony and progress of the whole country.


Social exclusion imposes a huge barrier on the process of creating a coherent community. A report by UNDP stated that exclusion is one of the main drivers of violent extremism. When young people are excluded from community, they become more vulnerable to radicalization. Alienation, mistreatment by the society, and limited opportunity for civic participation are factors that support the growth of hatred and violence. Conflicts and extremism can easily emerge in a non-inclusive society. Aside from conflict, exclusion in community also holds back the country’s growth. Non-inclusive communities restrict access and freedom to prosperity. Youth who are socially excluded will have difficulties in seizing economic opportunities. When economic opportunities are inaccessible by young people, social mobility will be slow and eventually the country will lost its future economic drivers.


One of the ways to tackle social exclusion is by providing safe spaces, platforms where youth can truly be themselves. Communities should be able to provide spaces that are accessible and affordable for youth to optimized their social participation. On the contrary of the conventional definition of “spaces”, safe spaces varies from public, physical, civic to digital ones. Public spaces should be available for young people to bond with their local community, physical spaces should be accessible to young people especially those with disability, digital spaces should be homes of constructive dialogue without stigma, and civic spaces should make room for young people to participate in the process of decision-making. Though the forms vary but certainly all safe spaces have a unified purpose: to be an inclusive bridge for youth that are often marginalized by the society.


Currently, Indonesia does have available safe spaces for youth, from the revitalized public parks in Bandung that encourage young people to have greater sense of community, to digital spaces like Ibunda.ID that helps youth by providing room of discussion for mental health. However, the availability of safe spaces in this country is far from sufficient. Having safe spaces is not the final destination on the journey towards an inclusive nation, it’s the baby steps. And like all babies, nation too must learn to step and walk before they run to the ever-shining finish line. Creating more safe spaces are necessary because it gives room for young people to freely share about their discomfort and challenges, and most importantly for communities to start addressing the root of these challenges. Conflicts can’t resolve without problems being addressed, and economic can’t growth when conflicts are unresolved. Therefore, to be a peaceful and prosperous country, Indonesia needs to implement an agenda for inclusivity and giving more #SafeSpaces4Youth would be a crucial first step.



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The article was written by Hillary Bakrie, IUNIA Founder and Mentor. Feel free to drop your comment and questions to contact.iunia@gmail.com


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