Prospective youth panels participants share their visions and concerns for the platform
Each youth panel will have up to 36 people, including two advisors, four leads and up to 30 members.
Plenty of young Singaporeans have voiced concerns about their future. The rising cost of living and escalating challenges surrounding mental health have not helped matters.
Amid these trying times, it’s easy to slip into a state of constant criticism. But can incessant critique truly lead us to solutions? Is there a way for our concerns to evolve from mere complaints to catalysts for change? Perhaps, the answer lies in channelling our apprehensions towards the right platforms.
For 21-year-old Nadine Lee, this means taking the step forward to be part of the youth panels, an upcoming platform by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) that allows Singaporeans aged 15 to 35 to co-develop policies with the Government.
Vocal from a young age, Nadine often discusses with her parents about current affairs and the areas in which she thinks can be improved. She jests: “My mom was like, if you’re going to say so much, if you keep complaining, why don’t you just go and see if you can say something to people who can actually do something.”
Each youth panel will have up to 36 people, including two advisors, four leads and up to 30 members. The advisors will provide guidance on the panel’s approach and strategy, the leads will take charge of the engagement, policy research and writing, while the members will provide insights on problem statements and suggested recommendations.
The topics for youth panels, which haven’t been announced, will be a balance between what youths want to address and what policy space is available from the agencies involved. There will be events curated for each panel, including context setting, policy-making and design-thinking workshops, learning journeys and interactions with political office holders.
Panel members will also have the autonomy to suggest refinements to the problem statements, conduct research and organise engagements with the border population to gather insights.
Nadine is particularly concerned about the cost of living. Furthermore, becoming a legal adult this year accelerated the National University of Singapore undergraduate’s desire to take action.
Upon contemplating the future, she realised living in Singapore might be very challenging if the cost of living continues to rise exponentially.
Her worries extend beyond herself and peers. She empathises with those in the lower-income bracket, sharing: “I do not think that anybody should ever have to rely on the changing whims of richer people just to have their basic or secondary needs fulfilled… things can change at the drop of a hat. What if the economy tanks and people are not so willing to open their wallets anymore?”
While acknowledging the Government’s efforts, Nadine believes there are still unaddressed gaps in the system. She recognises that financial support alone cannot fill every void.
Should Nadine become a part of the youth panels, she looks forward to connecting with like-minded individuals who are equally passionate about such pressing issues. She says: “…more people than we think have the desire to help but it just needs some kindling and ignition.”
Azlin Zubairah, a 23-year-old prospective youth panellist, is equally enthusiastic about the potential of the youth panels. She hopes that she’ll have the chance to share with others the growing issue of pet abandonment – a problem she holds close to her heart as an owner of three cats.
Unlike manslaughter, perpetrators of animal cruelty aren’t sentenced as harshly. To Azlin, there shouldn’t be such a huge disparity in treatment given that a life is still a life no matter how small the animal.
Besides animal welfare, Azlin is also deeply invested in the realm of mental health. Speaking from personal experience, she has identified systemic issues within Singapore’s mental health landscape, especially in how individuals with mental health crises are handled by law enforcement.
She explains: “…persons with bipolar and depression do have episodes. So when these episodes happen, the police will be called over to assess the situation and usually the police will be the escort to bring (them) to the Institute of Mental Health. But (if) the person with mental health issues can be violent, the police officers might handcuff them because they don’t know what’s going to happen. Because what if (they) become a threat to (themselves) and to others?”
However, Azlin shares that handcuffs carry a far more symbolic weight, that “arresting” these individuals sends the message that experiencing such episodes is inherently wrong. She suggests that alternative, more compassionate responses should be explored to prevent such stigmatisation and ensure better support for those in mental health crises.
She believes that the police might not be the most suitable body to manage individuals with psychiatric illnesses and suggests involving organisations like Samaritans of Singapore, which have deeper knowledge and experience in mental health issues.
Besides such improvements, another takeaway Azlin hopes for is to meet new people with different perspectives.
“I’m not really a very sociable person. I don’t really go for these events but (I thought) maybe I should try something different, try to get myself out of that bubble and explore other ways, not only for my own personal development. Hopefully (it) can lead to something better for others.”
Like Azlin, 19-year-old Jamie Yau recognises the platform’s potential to amplify youth voices and address pressing concerns. She strives to formulate suggestions for policies pertaining to youth development.
It was through a three-month internship with charity Halogen Foundation that she discovered the crucial role youths play in society.
During her stint, she worked with other students from primary and secondary schools, some of whom come from less privileged backgrounds. She spoke of a meaningful interaction she had with a student from a single-parent family. Due to his circumstances, he had to take on most of the household responsibilities, leaving him with little time to do homework and pursue his interest in sports.
While Jamie wanted to provide assistance, she grappled with finding the right intervention. This experience prompted her to reflect on how young people like herself can foster an ecosystem that empowers others to become changemakers, offering them the time and space to explore their passions and share their thoughts safely.
To her, youth panellists have the responsibility to go in not just with an open mind, but also with a clear picture of the future they envision for the country. According to the National Youth Council, the youth panels will come up with proposed recommendations in various forms, such as policy proposals, white papers, youth charters that may be published or even tabled for reading in Parliament.
Jamie also advises that youth panellists prepare the questions they want to bring up and the topics of discussion they hope to achieve during this conversation. By knowing what issues youths are facing and need to be talked about, it will empower participants with a “sense of agency as a collective panel”. In addition, this research would prove effective in coming up with an accurately represented ‘youth perspective’.
As eager as she is to push for change, Jamie also believes that a crucial aspect of the platform is to communicate to the broader youth community that the Government has taken into account the views from the youth panels.
“Maybe the perspectives that I gave would not have been supplementary or complementary to what the vision for the future would be and I think that’s okay. The most important thing really is to publicise such that even the youths who are not in youth panels would see that they’re really really listening to us,” shares the Singapore Management University undergraduate.
She adds that she can go on to share her newfound knowledge with peers and address any misconceptions or scepticism regarding Government initiatives.
“…sometimes as youths, we can come off as quite rash, very motivated by our emotions, very eager to make change but haven’t been in the space long enough to say how change should be made.
“I think that with policy discussions, this is something that I personally can develop more as a youth and I think that when I want to be successful, I want to be someone that learns, someone that always has meaningful interactions with people– and I think this is one of the best places to start.”
Find out more about youth conversations and sentiments regarding the youth panels: https://youthopia.sg/converse/youth-panels/
Find out more about the youth panels on NYC’s website