Can I begin by saying how delighted I am to be here with all of you at this STRIVE Event in Stirling.
For those of you who don’t already know me, I’m Jordan Linden. I’ve been the Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for Uddingston and Bellshill in North Lanarkhsire for almost Five Years, and I’m very proud to be the Chair of Scotland’s Youth Parliament, acting as the representative of all of Scotland’s Young People – it is a great privilege.
Today, I’ve been billed as an inspirational speaker, so I hope that what I have to say this afternoon will be poignant, make you think or cause you to leave wanting more than ever, to make a difference in your communities.
I’m going to start with looking at and sharing with you the journey I have been on while getting involved with youth work.
I first got involved in youth participation in 2009. I was 13 and I had been having quite a tough time at school. I regularly experienced bullying. I decided at that point, to stand for the Youth Parliament. As a Young Person who didn’t have a voice, I didn’t want others to experience the same. I stood as an MSYP, thinking I had nothing to lose.
I lost the election, miserably! Ironic eh?
I could’ve given up that night, feeling terrible, sitting in my seat just waiting for the night to be over. But Myra, a community worker, came to me and told me “Stick in. You’ll make it some day! This is for you.”
So I did. I stuck in: from Youth Forum, to Youth Council, the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, to being elected to the Scottish Youth Parliament in 2011, 2013, and 2015 (now the longest serving MSYP for the Uddingston and Bellshill constituency), and now I’m the first Chair of SYP from my constituency.
When I say all of that, I think to myself, OK. But so what? What does that mean and what’s the message?
I want the first message that you take away with you to be perseverance. All of you have come here today, because you care; all of you do what you do because you care.
I know that in this room alone there are people from uniformed organisations, and voluntary organisations. Regardless of what uniform you do or don’t wear, and regardless of where you come from, you are all incredible young people. You continually take the lead in your communities, and most importantly, make a lasting difference to people’s lives.
You’re all leaders, you all lead in different ways, and we should continually share our experiences and learn to do things differently, so we can make a huge difference to the people we work with.
One of the reasons I love speaking at events like this is because of the people that are in the room. When I walked in this afternoon, it reminded me of another incredible event organized by Youth Scotland and that was the Young People Taking The Lead Conference that I spoke at in 2014. The theme of my speech at that conference was about engagement and getting involved in the Independence Referendum. Regardless of whether you were Voting Yes or No, the message was clear, use your Vote.
I want to say, how proud I am of the way that Young People acted in the Referendum last year. Passionate, articulate and knowledgeable; they didn’t just participate in the debate, they turned up in hundreds of thousands to have their voices heard.
I mention this, because not only is it relevant to the second message I want you to leave with today, but because it’s also relevant to the experience that you can have with events like today, and indeed Young People Taking The Lead.
I think it was Bono who once said: “This is a time for bold measures. This is the country and you are the generation.”
And you are. Each and every one of you has an incredibly powerful voice and role that you can play.
Through having your voice heard at a local level, campaigning and championing the issues you care about most, and crucially, working to make sure that other young people’s voices are heard on what matters to them in their community is a really special role, and one which all of you have.
Through your work at a local level, and importantly, working together, we can all create a real difference to the day to day lives of local people, and persuade those around us, at a National level, to take action and change. Regardless of what you are involved in, never stop having your voice heard. Each of you has a voice and together your voices are a powerful force for good and for change.
The voices of young people, are so important, in fact they’re too important to be ignored which is why the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) exists.
My fellow Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) and I are elected to champion the voices of young people in Scotland.
In our sixteen years in existence, the SYP has been a force for equality. We campaigned on the issue of equal marriage to deliver a more equal Scotland for all. We’ve led the charge for votes at sixteen, and we’ll continue to fight across the United Kingdom with our friends, to ensure votes at sixteen is a reality for all in the UK.
Everyday MSYPs and young people make a significant difference to their community.
For example, Lauren King, a young carer and MSYP, used her experiences to champion young carers, and demand changes to policy; from SYP Members Motions to the Scottish Parliament’s Committees and a National Campaign. Lauren and SYP wanted change, and the Government listened.
Internationally, the voices of young people are being heard from Scotland too. Recently, I acted as the key host to the first ever visit to Scotland by the United Nations, from Amal Aldosseri, Vice Chairperson of the Children’s Rights Committee. She heard firsthand the impact that poverty, inequality, and many other issues are having on children and young people in Scotland. Then, two of my fellow SYP Board Members, Ewan McCall MSYP and Kirsty McCahill MSYP, went to Geneva to the United Nations to report directly to the Committee on the voices and views of young people in Scotland.
So that’s message number two; the power of young people. Don’t ever underestimate how powerful your voice can be in delivering change for the future.
I’ve been looking at this speech as a journey, from what you can do locally, how powerful it is what you do locally, and now my third and final message on the journey has to be this.
KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING.
The whole essence of youth work is built on volunteering, and that’s why it’s so important to young people of this generation and the next, to inspire, empower, and enable young people to take the lead in all that they do.
Now is the best time for us all to be working in youth work, volunteering, and importantly working to ensure that young people have their voices heard.
Scotland’s Young People are passionate, engaged and enthused. On Thursday, I hosted a discussion event with over 50 young people on the type of Scotland they want to see in the future, as part of the Fairer Scotland discussion. The young people who attended spoke of education, health, and employment, but they also spoke of something which touched my heart. They spoke of compassion and care for refugees, and how young people are young people regardless of where they came from. The voices of Young People should never be forgotten, as they can often be a beacon of hope in a world that can seem dark at times.
You all make such a difference to people’s lives. We know that Youth Work Changes Lives. And so do you. Each and everyone of you through the work that you do day in and day out.
I want to end by saying thank you for the opportunity to speak to all of you today. I know that today has been absolutely electric, and there have been some incredible conversations. I hope that they continue as you travel home.
Let me say this again; each of you, individually and together, are helping to make a difference. Continue doing what you are doing. I look forward to working with all of you to continue to deliver a better and fairer future for all of Scotland’s young people.