According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, youth is ‘the period between childhood and maturity’. Although there is no universally agreed-upon definition of youth, the UN Secretariat defines it as between the ages of 15 and 24 (UN General Assembly, 1981).
In any case, this age range is nothing more than a statistical convention. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is an international legally binding document, establishes that a person is a child until the age of 18. Apart from this clarity, dividing the stages of life without a mediating and intervening international rights instrument can be problematic in terms of recognizing rights and duties.
According to UNESCO, ‘The experience of being young can vary substantially across the world, between countries and regions, and “youth” is therefore often a fluid and changing category. As such, context is always an important guide in UNESCO’s definition of youth’.
Young people are determined by multiple variables. Their characteristics and experiences depend on the realities they live throughout their life, the culture they are part of, and their economic and social realities. It is not the same thing to be a young under age person, than a young person older than 18. Nor is it the same to be a young person and have resources, support, and stability from adults and from emotional ties, than not having that.
The context and culture where the young person grows also affects their realities. It is not the same thing to be a young person that lives in a rural area than in a big city, just as it is not the same thing to be a young person from an indigenous community or to be a young person who does not have an hegemonic gender identity and who lives in a traditional community, than to be a young person that meets the socially expected gender stereotypes.
The context, as well as the institutional, political, and social conditions, in addition to the characteristics and individual experiences determine the way that each young person lives their youth. Each country’s legal framework also affects the possibilities of accessing and decision-making based on age. For example, the age to work or to rent an apartment and live independently.
Because of this diversity of contexts and realities, as well as the differences pertaining to each person, it is not possible to talk about youth in singular. In stead, it is necessary to talk about youths in plural to include the multiplicity of experiences, characteristics, and realities with a broad and inclusive perspective.
Real Academia Española. Juventud. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
Quiénes son los jóvenes. Juventud Naciones Unidas. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
Por los jóvenes, con los jóvenes, para los jóvenes. UNESCO. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
Asamblea general de las Naciones Unidas, A/RES/36/28. Consultada el 13/11/2020.
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