According to the recent COP26 and Global Youth Development Index, young people are deeply concerned about the world they will inherit and want to be more engaged in meeting the development needs of their communities.
Michelle, a 15-year-old girl, is one of the youngest mayors in Italy and a newly elected Italian regional councilor. This is due to the fact that in 1997 a Parliament law allowed for the participation of children in political bodies through Children’s Municipal Councils, which are organized in the same way as a typical senior Council. Young councilors have unique perspectives on local issues. They often bring new ideas to the table, and they can be an inexhaustible source of energy and passion for social change.
Michelle was elected deputy mayor at age 10 and as mayor in 2019 in the town of Castel San Pietro Terme, one of the 183 municipalities (1%) with a Children’s Council, out of a total of more than 7.904 Italian municipalities. The average age of the participants is between 9 and 14. They start absorbing the values of democracy from childhood. They identify with the concept of internationalism and globalism. This is not the divisive politics of the left and the right, but the politics of productive debate. In 2021, Michelle became a member of the Regional Youth Assembly for the Emilia-Romagna region, the first in Italy to be established. The function of the young councilors is to express opinions on ongoing regional measures and formulate proposals to contribute to the protection of human rights for children. These local young change-makers are a new generation of dynamic, diverse and innovative young citizens who champion democratic values and are motivated and empowered to organize for a more peaceful and just world. In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education”.
Copyright photos: © Isabella Franceschini