Indigenous youth activism: the role of education in creating capabilities

Venessa Sambai Usek, Lynda Dunlop

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Young people in Malaysia have been found to be less likely to be politically active than their elders, but few research studies have focused on activism amongst Indigenous youth. This exploratory interview study focuses on motivations and challenges experienced by eight highly educated Malaysian Indigenous youth (aged 19-24). Youth took action for Indigenous rights in politics, education, development and health. We find systemic oppression and lack of control over their environment as key motivators for activism. These were associated with lack of representation in education and politics, and existential threats posed by major development projects involving dams, oil palm plantations and rice cultivation. Challenges faced by Indigenous youth in their activism included backlash from peers, tensions associated with maintaining true representation, fear of consequences of resistance, and the language of politics and legal knowledge. Education has an important - and currently under-utilised - role to play in supporting Indigenous young people to flourish.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2023

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