Youth can drive society’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, even as they keenly feel its effectsYouth can drive society’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, even as they keenly feel its effects.
Following months of hazardous bushfires, my community in Canberra had barely two months before the next challenge: COVID-19. Unlike the bushfires, the pandemic produced fear and uncertainty worldwide.
This distress affects especially vulnerable people— the young and the old, the poor and the homeless, people with preexisting health conditions, and those with uncertain immigration status. The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated global inequality; we have a long way to go in creating a more equal world.
Young people in the geographically broad Pacific region face many of the same pandemic-related chal- lenges. COVID-19 has worsened job and financial insecurity. Governments are working hard to restore jobs, but young people will still be underemployed in industries hit by the global recession.
Many young people, especially from lower socio- economic backgrounds, have suffered disruption to their education because they lack the devices and stable internet necessary for home learning. Community organizations and for-profit groups have held online workshops to help people upgrade their marketable skills, but many young people lack access to them. Mental health has also proved a significant challenge. Disrupted routines, uncer- tainty, isolation, and the loneliness of lockdowns have fueled anxiety and depression.
However, change creates opportunity. Young people across the world are invigorated by discussions about green recovery and are optimistic about the drop in global emissions. Similarly, many young people have embraced entrepreneur- ship, investing in themselves and their communities. Seizing this opportunity, I launched an initiative, Raise Our Voice AUSTRALIA, that works to upskill female and nonbinary youth from diverse backgrounds to be leaders in public decision-making. This brought about an engaged online community ready to be at the forefront of positive change.
During COVID-19, the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Hubs have been organizing check-ins, food drives, and letter writing for those in need. I feel privileged to be part of a group quick to pivot and think creatively about how to support the community. COVID-19 will continue to be a challenge, but I’m proud to be one of the young people working to create a better world.
This article originally appeared in the International Monetary Fund's Finance and Development update in December 2020. The original can be viewed here.