YOUNG policy-shapers have revealed their action plan for the next year, putting the spotlight on teenage body image.
Rotherham Youth Cabinet launched its 2017/18 manifesto at a Town Hall ceremony last Thursday.
The document sets out the youth panel’s concerns, as well as celebrating its achievements over the last year.
Above all, the young cabinet members are urging other youngsters to be confident about their body image.
They plan to organise a conference around the issue, as well as releasing a confidence-boosting film.
The youth influencers will work with health service and local authority partners to meet their key aims.
Youth Cabinet member Toni Paxford (18) said: “Body image is a huge issue for our generation, especially with the rise of social media.
“Friends of mine have told me they have skipped meals or avoided going out with family and friends because they feel fat, which is just heart-breaking.”
She added: “We need young people to feel prou of who they are — whatever shape, size or colour they are.
“They need to not feel judged by this, or by what they wear, by others.
“We are all born equal and people need to remember this as they grow up, which is why we want to draw attention to this subject and help people feel better about themselves.”
The cabinet’s other key aims are improving chances for youngsters to do work experience, by highlighting positive placements.
They also want to improve opportunities for youth mental health training, helping to raise awareness and enabling mutual support.
Members also committed to helping Sheffield Youth Cabinet colleagues roll out Paige’s Project — offering safe spaces for children with eating disorders, mental ill health and invisible, chronic illnesses.
Cllr Gordon Watson, deputy leader of Rotherham Borough Council and cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “It is great to see young people taking such a lead on these really important issues.
“The Youth Cabinet have done some great work over the last few years and, reading their manifesto, it is clear they want to continue to do even more great work in the year to come.
“I wish them every success for the year ahead.”
Highlights from the past year include a film shot with charity Fixers, which highlighted the borough’s best bits.
And a water safety awareness campaign led to the purchase of two life-saving water rescue throwlines.
The Youth Cabinet was also shortlisted for a prize at the British Youth Council’s Youth Voice Star Awards 2017, for a project seeking new travel passes for youngsters.
Members have vowed in the new manifesto to keep working with transport authorities to that end.
The cabinet is also looking to recruit new members and encourage more young people to have their say, through the authority’s\!q Child-Friendly Borough initiative.
In a foreword to the cabinet’s manifesto, assistant director David McWilliams said: “Here in Rotherham we are seeing more young people than ever engaging in democratic processes and wanting to make a difference.
The council has an ambitious vision for a Child-Friendly Borough and the Different But Equal Board is harnessing a wide and diverse range of voice and influence groups to ensure that the voice of children and young people in Rotherham is both heard and acted upon.”
Visit bit.ly/2zOfOh0 for more information and to read the full manifesto.