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Young People’s Leadership in Global Uprisings Since 2011

Youth-Led Recent Global Uprisings

Gayle Kimball, Ph.D.

Abstract: interviews and surveys with 4184 young people from 88 counties and interviews with youth activists, raised the obvious questions why and how were youth-led uprisings able to topple entrenched dictators and their violent security forces? This article addresses youth demography, why ageist scholars ignore youth activism, and asks why youth were able to mobilize large masses of contentious direct actions. Some of the answers are they’re brave because they don’t respect traditional authority, are influenced by global media and access to ICT. They value horizontal democracy that aligns with female socialization to be cooperative and focus on relationships. More input from youth is found in a trilogy of books in progress on global youth activism, the global girl revolution, and global youth culture. The author invites readers to critique chapters of interest via email. gkimball@csuchico.edu


The article is available at:


youth-led uprisings in 21st century

21st Century Youth-Led Uprisings


Serbia: 2000 President Milosevic was ousted in 2000 by Otpor (Resistance)


Georgia: 2003, Kmara (Enough) led protests against rigged elections leading to the resignation of President Edward Shevardnadze, called the Rose Revolution. Youth built on earlier organizing against the corrupt education system in 2000.


Ukraine: 2004, Pora (It’s Time) led thousands of young protesters against rigged elections.

2013, protests in the western part of Ukraine against the president’s move away from the European Union to alliance with Russia.


Venezuela: 2007, the catalyst for student organizing was the government shut down of their favorite TV station, a voice of opposition. Their demonstrations shut down the city but the station wasn’t reopened. Next, students mobilized a no vote to Hugo Chavez’ 44-page 69 constitutional amendments to permit him to be president for life and enlarge his powers.


Iran: 2009, the Green Movement protested rigged presidential elections but didn’t succeed in removing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


Tunisia: 2011, President Ben Ali resigned and fled to Saudi Arabia after a fruit vender set himself on fire the previous December to protest corruption. The first democratic elections were held in October with the most votes going to the moderate Islamist Ennahda party that resigned in 2013 so new elections were held.


Egypt: 2011, January 25 began the revolution. President Hosni Mubarak resigned in February, 18 days later.

2013, after a year in office President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in a military coup backed by large demonstrations due to his attempts to abrogate power and Islamize the government.


Yemen: 2011, In January demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He resigned in November. Elections were held in February 2014.


Libya: 2011, uprisings began February 15 after security forces opened fire on a protest in Benghazi. Mummar Qaddafi was killed in August. July elections voted in a secular party over the party aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. Demonstrators chanted, “No God but Allah, Moammar is the enemy of Allah” and “Down, down to corruption and to the corrupt.”


Bahrain: 2011, protests began in February 17. King Hamad brought in Saudi troops. Angry Shia youth turned to violence.


Morocco: In February, demonstrators took to the streets to limit some of the powers of the monarchy. The king offered reform including giving up his divine rights and nominating a prime minister from the largest party in parliament. The youth-led February 20 Movement wanted a constitutional monarchy, but the constitutional amendments they ejected were approved in July.  Moderate Islamists won the November elections.


Syria: 2011, protest began in March. The civil war killed 100,000 people and displaced over two million Syrians from their homes. A peace conference was held in Geneva in 2014.


Oman: 2011, in the summer youth groups demanded the resignation of the prime minister, a nephew of the Emir. He was replaced in November.



Global Youth Culture: How are Youth Transforming Our Future?

See http://youtu.be/Eu35zi1eClo for photos and a video presentation about global youth.


Global Youth Culture

*[photo of Joa] I’d like to start our exploration of the global youth community with this photograph. Then we’ll explore four questions.

1. Where do you think this teenager lives?


For the last 8 years, I’ve traveled around the world doing research for a book on how global youth are transforming our future, collecting 3,800 responses to the book questions from 73 countries. I stayed with families in Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, England, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and Tanzania.


1. Is there a global youth community?

I was surprised to discover an urban youth culture that transcends national boundaries. Because of electronic communication unique to their generation, youth share music, slang, clothing styles, and values as Jao illustrates and Maham, a Pakistani 13-year-old explains.


If youth meet from 10 different countries with different religions and backgrounds, they will have ideas in common, now that globalization is common and cultural boundaries are reducing. The habits include image consciousness, being tech savvy, living life for today, ignoring consequences of their actions, and being reactive. I feel most of them have complaints about restrictions on them or have problems with how their parents don’t get them right. I certainly do believe that there is a global youth. All the youth can stand together and fight against the differences. Maham, 13, f, Pakistan


2. What characterizes this global community?

A recent survey of 15,000 young people from 24 countries found what defines them is a sense of global community, tolerance, and a desire to share and connect.


Nini, 22, told me about the influence of the global media on her family’s activities and values in New Delhi, India, as you can see on our YouTube interview listed under TheGlobalyouth: She said,


We’ve been influenced by western culture, because of the media. Youth are not as reserved due to westernization. We have the freedom to go out and study and establish a profession, while my mother’s generation married at 20. More women are aware of women’s rights. TV shows educate and motivate women.

People then were more involved with the extended family, now we’re more nuclear family. We don’t live jointly as much, although my uncles live below us. We hardly see family because we’re so busy. My father tries to get the family together every weekend [all three young people live at home but the two in their 20s work and take classes].

We’re more money oriented, instead of values. We’re influenced by the Internet. As kids, we were more likely to go out and play and now kids use IPod and Xbox and gain weight. Little kids know the world because of the Internet. [Her observation was backed up by a recent market survey of over 4,000 kids 6 to 12 from 12 countries that found them aware of global problems like the economy and the environment.]


3. What concerns them?

*This is the largest, best educated, and healthiest generation in history. But there’s a widening gap between the rich and the poor. About 40% of the world lives on $2 a day or less, three-quarters of them in rural areas. [photo] This is Marshal, an illiterate girl in NW Pakistan. You can read an interview with her on my blog on WordPress. She has no power over her own life, only briefly met her fiancé, and says she has no fun in her life. interviewed by Hassan, a university student who teaches in the literacy program we started because of Mashal, when he asked


When have you felt most loved by someone else? Mashal replied,

 Never. My parents have not studied much so they don’t show their emotions. In fact, they don’t understand. I have never felt loved by anyone. Everyone orders me to do work for them. I just stay home, do the household chores everyday, and listen to my parents complain about food, work, money, etc.


*The economic problems facing young people, who have the highest unemployment rate world-wide, resulted in a cascade of youth-led uprisings against inequality starting in 2011: Tunisia to Egypt and Yemen, to Spain, Greece and Israel, to Chile, the US, Russia, and most recently to Turkey and Brazil. [map] Kids as young as 10 are leading reforms and you’ve probably heard of Malala, the 16-year-old champion of education for girls.


4. *How is this community of youthful changemakers different from the 1960s activists? How will they change our future?

This generation values horizontal rather than vertical organizing, pride themselves on being leaderless and are not ideological. They’re egalitarian. No radical today would say what Stokley Carmichael, head of SNCC, commented in 1964 when asked the position of women in his organization—“prone.”


*The bottom line for the global future is the environment. Rural kids I talked with don’t know about global warming, but they don’t do much to pollute. Urban youth are concerned about it, but a UN study found that like us, they haven’t gotten that our lifestyles need to fundamentally change. The Dalai Lama said the world will be saved by Western women, but I’d change that to global youth because of their access to information and their ability to quickly organize large groups of peers.


If this topic interests you, I can email you a draft of the book. And let me know if you know youth who’d like to be included. My email is gkimball@csuchico.edu.



How Global Youth Are Transforming Our Future

Interesting in learning about how global youth are transforming our future? I have a draft of a book on this topic and after working on it for 7 years would like feedback and criticism. I’ll email chapters that spark your interest if you contact me at gkimball@csuchico.edu. Here’s the TOC:

Chapter 1 Global Youth Power and Issues

Youth Power; Get to Know Eva, Abel, Sahar and Yuan; International Youth Issues: Urban vs. Rural; The Gap Between Rich and Poor

Chapter 2: The Millennial Generation and their Elders

            Teenaging of Culture vs. War on Kids, Youth Generation Characteristics, What Youths Think About Adults

Chapter 3  Consumerism vs. Caring for Others

Media and Common Language, Teen Style, Multinational Corporate Consumerism


Part 2 Youth Activism
Chapter 4: Youth Activism for Equality

 Activist Youths vs. Apathy, History of Youth Movements, The 2011 Arab Spring, European Summer, US Fall and Russian Winter Youth Demonstrations 2012 Protests, The Occupy Movements, Change Making Tools: Electronic Networking

Chapter 5 How to Create a Revolution in 18 Days

The Groundwork, After Mubarak Stepped Down, My Interviews with Demonstrators in Tahrir Square, Women’s Role in the Revolution
Chapter 6  Gender Equality

Current Status of Gender Equality, Life For a Traditional Village Teen, Women in Government, Global Feminist Activism, Fourth Wave Feminism
Part 3 Youth Values and Beliefs
Chapter 7 Traditional vs. Modern Values

            Life Purpose, Values, Rural vs. Urban, Respect for Elders, Consumerism


Chapter 8  Beliefs about Religion and Spirituality

             Suffering, Religious Purpose, Beliefs About God, Participation in Organized Religion, Spirituality


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