Josephine and Tehillah got involved with Citizens London through their school, Notre Dame, in Southwark in 2016. They have been actively involved in their community, influencing decision makers and calling for change in public and police perceptions around teenagers.
Citizens is so amazing, if it wasn’t for secondary school I would never have known, or had the opportunity to be a part of it. It is one thing to watch things from the outside and another thing to be part of the change from the inside.
‘We started in year 8, when it was our year’s turn to work with London Citizens.
To begin with, we thought of the things we are passionate about, wanted to get involved with or change in our area. For us that was youth safety and citizenship.
We worked with London Citizens on ways we could change this by supporting people who were going through those challenges and creating campaigns to bring awareness to it. They taught us how to start and continue campaigning.'
ACTION 1: Stop police posting weapons online
Tehillah and Josephine went out into their community to listen and talk to people about this problem and potential solutions.
Tehillah: ‘We noticed that the police would always post pictures of weapons they had found and seized on social media. We didn’t really like it because we thought it would encourage young people who already carry a weapon think they needed to get a bigger one.’
Josephine and Tehillah were invited on ITV to speak about the campaign and eventually met with the borough commander. In the meeting they put the leadership and campaigning skills taught by Citizens UK and their own passion and experience into expressing their concerns. They wanted decision-makers to hear that their community felt that police posting weapons online was affecting their community.
Since then they have got the police to agree to no more images of weapons on the police twitter feed. What a win!
There are so many opportunities we have come across that we would never have come across before, ITV news, Evening Standards. It has been amazing.
ACTION 2: Show positive actions of young people with #TeenCaught
Josephine: ‘Often when you turn on the news you see teenagers doing bad things like knife crime, but most of us aren’t like that. There is a lot more to us young people, we do a lot of different stuff and other good things that doesn’t get talked about. So we started #TeenCaught to share the good stuff young people are involved in online too.
We created #teencaught to showcase the positive things teenagers get involved with.
What keeps you campaging?
'I can actually see, and am a part of the change, that we are all talking about, I can project the voice I already have within me.'
'For me it was the opportunities available to me and the people I met. It has boosted my confidence, in terms of speaking on stage and in meeting to other people. It has developed my leadership sills, I had some before I started but the responsibility that I have undertaken means my leadership skills keep growing and everything we have spoken about I have a passion for and I want to see that change. Why wouldn’t I want to continue to improve these skills?!'
Training up the next generation of youth leaders
As a full cycle of grass roots support, Tehillah and Josephine having left school of sixth form college are support Citizens London to train and peer support the next generation of youth leaders.
‘They are like where we used to be, listening in on meetings. Sometimes Claire (Southwark Citizens coordinator) likes to get them actively involved in these meetings so we help them by sharing experience and advice. We hope that this gives them the passion, for themselves, to push for the change they want to see.’
Bringing the issues that matter to us to the Mayoral Assembly
‘Right now, we are organising the Citizens London delegates meeting, we all bring topics we want to be addressed at the Mayoral Assembly. We share our passion for each one to other Citizens members and vote on the top 2 topics to present at Mayoral Assembly.
This year we are choosing from:
· Youth safety
· Environment and nature
· Minimum wages
· Citizenship fees
We felt comfortable straight away talking to adults.
‘We felt included, they [people in meetings] treated us like adults so there was no need for us to feel a different way. We also felt that they wanted us there because they are making decision that impact on our future. So it important that our voice is heard in those decision.
The way adults see things and the way young people see things is completely different. So its good we are part of those conversations.