Nurturing the political agency of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand
Keywords:political participation, political agency, social and political activism, young people
INTRODUCTION: Young people’s voices are often coloured by past experiences with significant others in their lives, such as parents, friends, peers, and teachers. These experiences can have long-lasting effects on their beliefs about their capabilities, place, value, and identity in society. This qualitative-exploratory research explored the development of young people’s political agency through social and political activism to provide further understanding around how and why young people politically engage to better nurture their political agency.
METHOD: A small, qualitative-exploratory Master’s research project explored young peoples’ experiences of political participation and how these affected their political agency. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with six politically active young people and analysed thematically to identify four key themes.
FINDINGS: The research found that young people’s understandings of the political world were inconsistent with widespread beliefs about their ability to contribute. The participants in this study were actively engaged in activities within broad civic and political contexts around issues of significance to them. The research also found that social contexts, access to political experiences, and connection to social and political issues were critical in nurturing their political agency.
CONCLUSION: The findings suggest formal political institutions frame young people’s participation differently. They also advocate a cultural shift in civic and political settings to consistently provide genuine space for young people’s active participation.
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