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So after a long and rewarding time in Ohio, I bid adieu to the Columbus countryside and headed on my way up to Boston yesterday! After a brief stay with a friend of mine in the area, and some amazingly delicious made-to-order pizza for dinner, I then went to bed as I had an early morning.

I awoke at 4:00am to catch a bus to head up to Lewiston, Maine where I had a day of canvassing  and promoting for our screening that night at Bates College ahead of me. Once I got to Lewiston, I met up with our student contact Umar on the campus, who made the day seem like a breeze for me! He got a table for me right at the entrance that I was able to canvass and promote from and I got some great exposure and talked to a great amount of students who were mostly willing to sign our postcards to Senators Collins and Snowe demanding they support a world without nuclear weapons!

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In addition to holding a briefing on the dangers of nuclear weapons with our Issue Analysts, we also wanted the whole AIDemocracy network to be “in the loop” when it comes to one of the greatest threats we face today.

The network briefing took place on Wednesday, October 6th. I facilitated the discussion and provided an introduction to the development of, use and dangers of nuclear weapons. Specifically, I spoke about the three major threats that nuclear weapons pose for the world today: nuclear terrorism, nuclear accidents and miscalculated nuclear launches. I also spoke about nonproliferation and disarmament efforts, including the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) and others.

Feedback for this session was also very positive and I look forward to organizing more of these briefings for the entire AIDemocracy network!

On Wednesday, October 13th, our Issue Analysts were afforded the opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest threats we face as nation and as a planet, nuclear weapons. Alex Toma, the Executive Director of the Connect US Fund was on-hand as our speaker and she gave a terrific, brief overview of nuclear weapons. She covered their origins and development, their use during World War II and the Cold War, the theory of deterrence and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) and how these weapons pose a threat today through either the potential for nuclear terrorism and/or accidental or miscalculated nuclear launches.

Feedback from our Issue Analysts has been overwhelmingly positive! We had Issue Analysts specifically writing for the Global Peace and Security Program in attendance, but we also had some who were not writing specifically for GPS, but other AID programs, which was fantastic!

We are anxiously looking forward to offering more of these briefings for our Issue Analysts, so stay tuned for more details!

By James Craggs
James is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about James below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Students and young people have the best grasp on a new weapon for conquering HIV and AIDS: social networking such as Facebook and Twitter.  Young people are able to share content, blog, tweet and post information fast.  But how are students and young people important in international health affairs and do they influence decisions? 

Well, in circumstances which affect either an individual or a group of people, knowledge is power.  Spreading information online allows information to get around, and let’s face it; young people need to know the risks and passing on what they know.  Young people are, usually, the most sexually active in society, so it’s important for them to know how to protect themselves and others.

It’s not just about how it affects people as individuals, but how it affects other people and how young people can help defeat HIV and AIDS, socially and physically.  The influence of networking is so big today, that when young people can get together behind an issue, people listen.  Demonstrations get organised, groups set up and decisions changed from the influence of networking groups.  The role of online tools and communication to object and demonstrations against actions is becoming more important, as people become more complex in their networking connections.  It’s also a way of spreading information to people who don’t (or can’t) get online, through word of mouth and the media.      

So, with young people keeping in touch with each other, the possibilities are endless.  With such a large voice, online and in the real world, it is a duty of everyone to say something, to act or just to listen, but the importance of young people can’t be underestimated.

My name is James Craggs I’m a final year student at The University of Aberdeen in the UK reading for my Masters in Politics and International Relations.  I also work within the National Health Service within the emergency services.  I volunteer in projects for a local and regional public health charity associated with HIV/AIDS and sexual health issues who have a national presence here in the UK.  In my spare time I enjoy mountain climbing, gym, socialising with friends and travelling as much as possible!

By Rachel Stanley
Rachel is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Rachel below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Young people need a presence in the realm of U.S. foreign assistance. They need to be seen, and their concerns should be heard. As a university student, my view of young “movers and shakers” comes from a university setting. U.S. foreign aid covers a wide variety of topics, too many for any size student movement to cover passionately. Recently, in my own experience, there has been a considerable outpouring of student energy for certain causes, particularly Haiti. It is fascinating which disasters that energy gets extended to or not. For example, at my own university, news of Haiti’s earthquake created a huge fundraising effort, one that closely mirrored the amount of money that the U.S. government itself sent to Haiti. But what about student efforts for the victims of the Pakistani and Chinese floods? Not so much. U.S. foreign aid is a device all its own, but I think that, in many ways, student movements and student responses to world events are a reflection of the way that our older American counterparts are feeling. It is too early to tell how much of USAID’s money will go towards Pakistani or Chinese flood relief, but based on the U.S.AID figures for the 2010 fiscal year, more American money was donated to Haiti than to Sudan, Iraq, Uganda, and Colombia (http://www.usaid.gov/policy/budget/money/) . Haiti has taken the crown. I think that student initiatives can act as a mirror of official U.S. foreign assistance policy, but students also have the tremendous power of being able to get the ball rolling in terms of how Americans prioritize aid. As Generation Y comes of age and begins to enter the work force and adulthood, we have such power and responsibility. We can affect U.S. aid. We can get money directed where we want. It’s possible.

Rachel Stanley is an undergrad at Elon University in North Carolina. Working towards a B.A. in international studies, she is interested in all things Africa, but also North-South issues and human rights in general.

By Simone Oyekan
Simone is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Simone below or take a look at the Student Issue Analysts.

Every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria.
Yet, malaria is a treatable disease.
How do I know?
I’ve had it before.

I was 9 years old. If not for my families’ access to drugs, I may have been 1 of one million children that die each year.

Malaria is caused by an anopheles mosquito bite. The parasite that is transmitted by these mosquitoes multiplies in the liver and infects red blood cells. Symptoms can include a fever, vomiting, weakness and a headache. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria.

It’s easy to see why developed countries have a stake in international development. The more efficient countries such as Nigeria are, the more oil can be obtained. However, when the issue turns to malaria, it’s hard to explain exactly why we should care about malaria. The truth is that malaria can also affect developed economies. It has the potential to lower GDP, increase death mortality rates, lower the workforce and increase government spending in poorer countries. As the world becomes more globalized, one country’s problems will affect the rest of the international community.

Sometimes I believe people see malaria as something unsolvable and begin to accept it. For instance, while I was in Uganda, I contracted a stomach virus. When I told people that I was sick, the first thing people asked was if I had malaria. I had no symptoms whatsoever, but people (even the doctor in the hospital) jumped to the conclusion that I had to have it. For the record, I didn’t.

From the 1920’s to 1940’s, malaria existed in the American south. The Center for Disease Control and Read the rest of this entry »

By Brandon Fischer
Brandon is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Brandon below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

In the turbulent state of affairs along the intersection of Muslim and American culture, the question often arises as to what exactly can be done to allow for a certain progress which will counter the trend of regression which has taken hold of relations in recent years. Evidence is ever the more present, typified today by controversy which has surrounded Park51, a Muslim community and worship center to be erected within walking distance from Ground Zero. Yet, there must be a force strong enough to withstand the hostile rhetoric of antagonists, and that force lies within the hands and minds of Muslim-American and Muslim-sensitive youth of our country.

Progress towards this end, though some may think it to be out of reach, is made wholly possible when considering the capacity of an organized assemblage of well-informed and robust voices. Social media outlets and cross-cultural community organizing may work to build upon and enhance interreligious dialogues of the past, propelling them into the secular realm. The Straight Path Initiative, a youth program brought forth by the Muslim American Society, serves as a model for this through their lessons in civic engagement, social networking and advocacy. The Straight Path Initiative and similar associations have already penetrated campuses nationwide, creating a new Muslim-American consciousness in their classrooms and communities.

In disregarding religious demagoguery and increasing cultural sensitivities, young advocates, Muslim and non-Muslim, may build a visible constituency of change. The knowledge and resources are widely available, waiting to be capitalized upon and to be used as tools of advancement. Constructing a new breed of ecumenical dialogue and activism by young people, if concerted and enduring, may just be enough to dull a tension which has gotten out of hand. Keep in mind, readers, the future of US-Muslim relations has yet to be written.

Brandon Fischer is currently working towards his Masters in International Affairs at the New School in New York City. He received his BA in International Relations and Spanish from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX. His regional interest lies in the Middle East where he intends to explore the intersection of development and institutional accountability vis-à-vis macroeconomic efficiencies in aid flows. Brandon feels strongly that the youth of our day may serve as significant actors in global affairs through community activism and social media which enable political mobility.

By Michael Miner
Michael is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Michael below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Nuclear non-proliferation is an issue spanning generations. From policy makers of the Cold War on through deciders in the new millennium, the nuclear dilemma has touched every generation since the dawn of the Atomic Age. Consequentially the next generation of Americans will play a defining role in twenty-first century nuclear policy.

How and why states seek nuclear capabilities or to prevent proliferation are long-term policy conundrums. Status quo nation-states align along similar trajectories in the interest of reduction, while other states seek to redefine their own standing in the world by achieving recognized (or unrecognized) nuclear status. Nuclear proliferation constructs the modern political and security structure of all great power nation-states and plays a strong role in the security development of critical middling powers. Scientists and nonstate actors play supporting and destabilizing roles between these two extremes, simultaneously representing potential threats to society and unexplored avenues of cooperation toward reducing the spread of fissile material.

Nuclear expansion or reduction defines the future as its primary operating environment impacting current and future generations. Citizen education and comprehension can play a vital role shaping civil societies cognizant of realities at play. A better-versed population will accurately identify real and unrealistic dangers inherent in nuclear proliferation and encourage policies seeking to curb actual threats to humanity. Addressing these threats will lead to a more stable political, social, and economic environment for all nation-states and allow for mankind to solve one of the greatest manmade problems that continues to cast a dark shadow on humanity.

Michael Miner is our resident analyst covering nuclear weapons and associated research areas including security studies, globalization, and political stability in the Persian Gulf. Mr. Miner previously worked for an international communications firm based in Washington DC and is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Chatham House, and the Royal United Services Institute. He is pursuing a master’s degree at Dartmouth College and is a visiting graduate scholar at Harvard University. Outside of the academy he can be found training under the United States Olympic Judo Team while desperately trying to brew the perfect cup of coffee.

By April Stewart
April is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about April below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Happiness is the name of a young girl I met in Usa River, Tanzania. She is four years old and loves orange Fanta and dancing. She and more than 30 of her friends live in an orphanage run by the Tanzania Millennium Hand Foundation. All of these children have been infected or affected by HIV, including Happiness. Happiness tested positive for HIV more than a year ago, which she contracted from her mother, who passed away from complications associated with AIDS.

Youth around the world are disproportionately infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. The growing number of youth who are infected by this virus reiterates a need for a new perspective on this global issue. Youth posses the creativity and drive to inform their peers about HIV and lower the infection rate. Organizations around the world have targeted youth in safe sex campaigns and HIV/AIDS education, yet because of the diversity of cultures, religion, and location, programs that may work to reduce infection rates in one region of the world are ineffective in others. Youth’s voices should be incorporated into these organizations to provide tailored methods of dealing with HIV/AIDS in their specific region.This could be done through youth teaching seminars, where young adults become trained to teach their peers. This could be complimented with a youth summit in which those that educate their peers around the world could exchange creative teaching strategies.

Organizations, such as the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA), work to incorporate youth in policy and programming decisions, empowering young people in a arena which has greatly affected the. With more organizations committed to giving youth a voice, children like Happiness will be represented in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

My name is April. I am a junior at Northwestern University where I study Social Policy. Getting involved in the fight against HIV has become a passion of mine since high school, when I volunteered for the Minnesota AIDS Project. Since then I have worked in Tanzania, Washington DC, Chicago and New York learning and teaching about this important issue.

By Hannah Nemer
Hannah is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Hannah below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Walking through suburbia covered in a hijab, I felt the deafening silence of discomfort follow me. For the first time, I, a Jewish teen, felt a small bit of the burden of being Muslim in America.
This social experiment, designed to identify post-9/11 stereotypes of Islam, was eye opening, revealing all too many misconceptions. These perceptions only intensify as time passes, as demonstrated by the upset over the “ground-zero mosque.”
Somewhere along the way, America’s fear began to usurp the power of the First Amendment. Now, as youth, it is our obligation to stop the fear mongering in order to embrace our differences, making way for religious pluralism.
The forums for this are plentiful.
Students have a unique opportunity; rarely will we be thrown into an environment as socially and culturally diverse as our schools, nor with a group of peers as genuinely enthused about identifying problems and seeking solutions. Here, conversations are born.
The Interfaith Youth Core, a global dialogue building interfaith coalitions, has grown among these campus communities. More than a forum for discussion, the global nature of this program forges new partnerships, bridging cultural divides.
Students do not hold political power because we are future leaders, but because we are leaders. In 2006, the youth 9/11 Plus 5: A Hope Not Hate Summit proclaimed that message loud and clear. Joining forces, over 400 youth leaders took a stand for religious pluralism, calling attention to legitimate driving forces of terrorism, rather than explaining it away as “Islamic Fundamentalism.”
Conversations must commence, and tough questions must be asked. Something as simple as complimenting a Muslim woman on the color of her hijab breaks down long built barriers of silence. And that gateway conversation is one we all can begin.

I am Hannah Nemer, a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Interested in advocacy through public policy and film, I am eager to partner with Americans for Informed Democracy. Despite my love of politics, I find myself concerned over the political process which seems to breed both xenophobia and hate; but, I see hope in informed youth who speak out against both social and political injustices.

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