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The Power of Youth

On February 1, 2013 former Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry, replaced Hilary Clinton as President Obama’s Secretary of State.  Seven months earlier, another major change occurred in the State Department when Zeenat Rahman was appointed as the Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues.  Zeenat laments, “The story that we hear about youth is not an accurate reality.  Youth are seen as a problem or as victims.  This is not your story.  Yes, young people are facing difficult challenges such as access to education and employment, but they are also the ones creating the solutions.  We have to shift the problem or victim perception and highlight young people who are leading and who are role models for others.”

Which is exactly what Zeenat is attempting to do and she explains, “ My job involves finding ways for young people to advance their skills, take advantage of a number of opportunities, and have access to different levels of leadership.” The State Department’s youth Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/globalyouthissues) promotes several of these opportunities such as Demo Africa and a Social Good Twitter Chat.

On the topic of social media, Zeenat notes, “Many American youth are using their access to new networks and technology to facilitate action around things that matter.  And in this way they are making local impact that I hope will tell a global story of young people leading positive change in the world.  I visited an organization called Girl Up a couple of weeks ago and met young girls from all over the United States—Oregon, Illinois, Florida, New York—who were passionate advocates working to raise awareness about the rights of girls to education in countries like India, Vietnam, Senegal—places where that access isn’t easy.  It is my hope that American youth will use their access to new networks and technology to facilitate action around things that matter.”

When asked her advice for youth who want to make a difference, Zeenat replied, “As I travel the world, I meet young people who are passionate about improving not only their lives—but the lives of others as well.  It’s inspiring.  So my advice would be to choose a passion, and stick with it.  Consider every experience a learning experience.  Stay committed.  It will pay off.”

Staying committed and remembering everyone has the power to make a difference is at the heart of Zeenat’s work at the State Department. With new initiatives being launched constantly she urges youth to stay updated with the power of social media because now more than ever youth have the power to shape the world.