Gender Differences in Civic Engagement Among Youth

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“According to Richard P. Adler (2005), Civic engagement refers to the ways in which citizens participate in the life of a community in order to improve conditions for others or to help shape the community’s future (p 236-253). Kent E. Portney stated that “The explosion of interest in civic engagement among youth has brought increasing attention to the extent of gender differences in youth engagement” (Kent E. Portney, 2009, p. 2).

In Youth population trends and sustainable development fact sheet of United Nation Department of Economics and Social Affairs, there are more than 1.2 billion young people (defined by the United Nations as between 15 and 24 years of age) in the world today, it is the largest group in world (UN, 2015).

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In the article of Youth Civic Engagement by Htun Tin Htun, young people are key agents for social change, and are providing the energy, creative ideas and determination to drive innovation and reform. Volunteerism is an important, and increasingly popular, mechanism for young people to bring about positive change in society, and it is becoming more and more relevant as a mechanism to engage young people in global peace and sustainable human development (Htun, 2015).

“Young people may provide particular leverage on a common explanation for gender differences that are observed among adults, specifically that greater rates of participation among men when present arise from their advantage in the cognitive and material resources that promote political activity” (Kent E. Portney, 2009, p. 3).

“Today the world’s 1.5 billion young people aged 12-24 constitute the largest generation ever to make the transition to adulthood. The values, attitudes and skills they acquire and develop will fundamentally shape the future of the societies and nations to which they belong. Acknowledging the impact that today’s youth will have on the future, many in government, multilateral lending intuitions, international aid agencies and civil society are taking a growing interest in the development of the current generation of young people. Outstanding young women and men are needed for the prevention, preservation and protection of our Planet “One World What We Want”. There are activities and events all around the world. These are run by youth and for youth” (Htun, 2015). 

Alex Etra mentioned that “Focusing on youth will ensure the sustainability of these investments in civic engagement and will facilitate the current generation’s transition to adulthood by equipping them with the skills and abilities to thrive in an environment of rapid and uncertain transformation. Given the opportunity to engage and provided with the skills to make a meaningful contribution to their communities, this youth cohort can form the vanguard of transformation in their societies” (Alex Etra, 2010, p. 4).

According to (Elena ISAEVA, 2015), nowadays, civic engagement and civic participation in Russia is one of the most pressing issues. Civic engagement and involvement of the population in addressing their enquiries to municipal authorities significantly correlates with an amount of established and actively operating public associations and nonprofit t organizations in a particular area. Growing number of nonprofit organizations may indicate an increase in the level of civic engagement and residents’ readiness for responsibility in solving problematic issues. By creating NGOs, residents plan improvement in social, cultural, economic, among others, aspects of their life on their own. Civic engagement stimulation through increased funding of socially-oriented nonprofit organizations originated from the federal budget (Presidential grants, subsidies granted by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia), but, on the other hand, we cannot see new regulations that scarcely affect governing political activity (e.g., the law on rallies, sanctions against political activity of NGOs with overseas funding, etc.)” (p. 452).

In the report of Youth Development through Civic Engagement: Mapping Assets in South Asia by Alex Etra et al, youth are not afforded opportunities to participate in building their future and do not have a vested interest in the development of their communities, South Asia’s demographic window of opportunity may close before the extra dividends are achieved. This could result in significant opportunity costs in terms of the political violence and social instability, fueled by pervasive poverty, illiteracy and inequality. Instead, civic engagement opportunities can empower young people and provide them with a sense of responsibility and possibility that is a prerequisite for their becoming active participants in their own development, as well as that of their societies (Alex Etra, 2010, p. 4).

“Youth civic engagement is particularly important in East Asia and the Pacific due to its potential to promote more democratic forms of engagement between citizens and state. Approximately one-third of the world’s children and young people live in East and Southeast Asia. Young people need to be supported to engage positively and effectively in their communities’ development through youth-friendly education emphasizing the importance of participation, life and livelihood skills development, and access to a variety of structured opportunities for civic engagement appropriate for young people’s individual interests, goals and skill sets. These structured opportunities may range from government-sponsored, full-time national civic service programs to service-learning in schools or community clean-up days organized by religious groups” (Hutter, 2008).

UNFPA described that Myanmar youth’s participation in on-going relief efforts to respond to the recent floods that have ravaged 12 of Myanmar’s 14 States and Regions. Youth’s rapid response to the floods was one of the main topics discussed during the event. In spite of the challenging conditions, youth have been encouraged and empowered to help communities during this difficult time. Myanmar youth actively participating in relief efforts across the country to help those most affected by the floods. Young people’s participation is well recognized by the population of Myanmar, the government, and humanitarian organizations. Yangon Youth Network’s support to plan and lead the event, was a clear signal of the wish to listen to and invest in youth (UNFPA encourages youth civic engagement, 2015).

In a study on Urban Volunteerism in Myanmar, People throughout the country, especially youth, have become more active than ever before and are beginning to get more involved in community service and organizing voluntary youth activities. Some instances of youth mobilization could be clearly seen in the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in 2013, the national Yangon Youth Forum 2013 and ASEAN Youth Forum 2014, all hosted in Myanmar (Cusco International, 2015).

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