Krishna Athal: My New Year Message to Our Youth

Leaving 2015 behind, we are given the chance to start with a clean(er) slate this year.

Now is the time for every single person deemed to be a ‘youth’ to stand up and be present in the present. The future is for the youth, yes, but more importantly the present is just as much for the youth too. It is high time that we break all of these out-dated societal norms and make room for how life really is these days. The youth have a stronger voice than they tend to realise and the potential action that lies in that collective effort is even more powerful than anyone cares to think.

I believe now more than ever that there is remarkable potential for the world to see change and this responsibility rests solely on the shoulder of our youth to stand up and be seen, heard and respected. Too often, the youth are silent when told to be, and I sincerely hope every youth understands what role they have in the greater scheme of things. The key to this strength is, for starters, embedded in the concept of respect. A sense of respect that starts from within by respect for ones self and then continues externally by having that same level of respect for others.

Let us not come together enthusiastically only to lose courage when it comes time to act on our ideas. Instead, the youth should be focused on a collective effort of encouraging each other and their surrounding communities to act. This exercise of executing one’s dreams and ambitions is contagious and emboldening, and thus has the potential to create a marvellous ripple effect that only society can benefit from. This is why I think YUVA is a key to this step. At its core, it brings together young people from all walks of life that all have one thing in common: effecting change! YUVA’s founding principles are stronger than ever one year later and will continue to bring youth together to make a difference in their communities and regions.

At the recent International Forum for Good Governance that was hosted by YUVA, I noted with pride and relief that there seems to be a sense of discontent among some of the youth candidates that attended the forum. This discontent is that youth are fed up with being placed in the corner and not having their voices heard. But more than just being fed up with the way that the world has predetermined the fate of youth, they realise that the only way change is going to ever come about is by starting with a change within themselves. A change in the way each and every one of us think is the key to changing everyone else’s perceptions too. If there is one thing that the youth of today understand, it’s that of getting things to go viral. Why can’t this be applied to perceptions about the youth more so from the youth themselves?

Another point that stood out for me was that this change is not only a change in mind-set, but also a change towards a society filled with far more integrity than there currently is. The youth present an opportunity for a vicious cycle to be broken and replaced by a far more conscious society for future generations to come. Why do the youth need to follow examples when the examples that are being set are far from anything worth learning from? Corruption, abuse of power and greed – just to name a few things – are the current standard and hardly worth passing on for future generations. We find a lot of youth fighting vehemently not to fall into this same trap that people have fallen into before us and not to become the same kind of people that they became.

Reflecting on the past year brings about a sense of bittersweet memories from releasing my first book ‘Ramrajya: An Enigmatic Leader’s Rise to Power’, being involved in the establishment and operations of YUVA and watching a slow degeneration on the island of some youth through things like crime. Mauritius needs to recognise the talent and capability our youth force has instead of remaining so hell bent on reforming them into what they feel is an acceptable version of what the idea of youth should represent. Is it not time for a change in perceptions? Are we, in the year 2016 not entitled to expect this and why not from our youth? I sometimes find myself asking, “Do youth really share an interest in bettering their and their society’s wellbeing?” In some cases, no, because a fair share of our youth have a keen sense of apathy and ignorance when it comes to this. However, the share of youth that don’t share this sad sentiment are our chance and our hope for a better tomorrow as well as better society in the future. This is where I place my hopes and confidence.

So yes, the youth have indeed got a task in front of them. But it is a task that is worthy of its level of difficulty because it is not only for their benefit but for generations to come too. The future belongs to us all but the present is what we need to focus on to make sure we have a future to look forward to. Now is the time for youth to stand tall and more than anything, stand together. One voice may never be heard, ten maybe not, but thousands and thousands cannot and will not be ignored. The mould of what is supposedly expected of the youth needs to be broken desperately. In short, my words to the youth today mean to impart a sense of saying that nothing is impossible to achieve.

I believe it is not a far fetched idea or notion but only that the youth need to have more confidence in themselves and not simply sit back and inherit their voices. This notion of entitlement is a dangerous one and something that also needs to be shattered sooner rather than later. We will never learn by having it all handed to us and being told to continue along the path that has already been forged. It is the youth’s responsibility to forge new roads and break new ground because no one but the youth is going to do it for the youth.

The road ahead is one that requires courage and strength and the ability to go against the grain so to speak in order to succeed but like I said before, it is not impossible. Our youth only needs to see it and believe it in their own hearts. So, to our youth, I wish a prosperous, courageous and success-filled 2016. May the efforts we put in today, benefit us tomorrow and forever more!