“Our voices count, Count our voices!”
On Sunday the 4th of June, supporters and students from Epsom Girls Grammar, Lynfield College, Papatoetoe High School, Mt Albert Grammar School and Auckland Girls Grammar School gathered at Britomart to lead a peaceful march down Queen Street in order to raise awareness that all forms of violence and discrimination are present and unacceptable in New Zealand society.
The march was organised by Shakti Youth, a group of young people from Asian, African and Middle Eastern backgrounds passionate about social justice and building towards a violence-free future. To mark Youth Week 2017, the march aimed to promote and celebrate youth voices within the community. The youth behind this event wanted to make a change to end discrimination based on age, gender, ethnicity, religion, class, ability and sexual orientation; to raise awareness on how racial stereotypes and Islamophobia are taking a toll on their everyday lives.
Upon arriving at Aotea square, the students, many from migrant and refugee backgrounds, gave speeches on their experiences within the community. One student, Siddhi, a year 11 student, points out in her speech: “When we state that we are getting bullied or we are not feeling secure in our schools we are told to keep quiet because it is really common. Have they ever thought how these words will affect us? These words makes us support-less, helpless.”
Another student, Leanne, also states: “Discrimination occurs far too often within society, whether it is just one small comment or a racist fuelled hate crime. One comment may seem harmless but words are very powerful weapons.”
The march had support from Green Party MP, Marama Davidson, Labour candidate, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, as well as groups such as Racial Equity Aotearoa and Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga.
One of the students leading the march, Rani, commented: “Seeing the people that are attending this, it makes me realise, yes, there are people that want to stand up for rights.”
With another student, Atia, stating: “It reminded me how much the issues that relate to discrimination and racism are not just faced by us, not just by our school, but by everyone else from the outside. It meant unity.”
Ending on a passage from June’s (year 9 student) speech, she expressed her dreams for the future of New Zealand: “I dream my second home country New Zealand to be a much better place with no discrimination. I know that it will not be solved in one day. I think the fastest way to solve this problem is to show our existence. We have to prove that we have equal lives.”
The students have already made plans for another youth march next year.