Wednesday 12th August

| BY Paul Toner

Ten’s Teen Activists: On International Youth Day, We Bring You Caitlin Carter

You can tell a lot about a person by what’s plastered on their bedroom wall, what sits on their bedside table or even by what they leave lying around on their floor. For a teenager, their bedroom is an extension of who they are – or who they want to be. Often with a ‘Keep Out’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign scribbled on their door, teens can lock themselves away from the outside world within their own personal sanctuary, where their every need is catered for. For Issue 64, we commissioned the photographer Jermaine Francis to explore these mini universes. The inspiration was Adrienne Salinger’s ‘In My Room’, a seminal photo book from 1995 that journeyed though a selection of teen bedrooms in upstate New York. Salinger found her subjects in shopping malls and restaurants, as well as through friends, resulting in a perfectly imperfect chorus of adolescent youth to photograph in their as-yet-uncharted territories. The only rule in place before Salinger’s arrival was that the teens were not to tidy their rooms, no matter how messy they were.

Comparing then to now, the sentiment remains that no two of these personal palaces look-alike, although for today’s teens, bedrooms are no longer dedicated to their favourite boyband member or celebrity crush. All over the country, the function of a teenager’s bedroom has evolved. Within their four walls, the modern-day teen is able to plot how they will make tomorrow brighter, both for themselves and the marginalised groups that surround them. From the climate-change warriors and LGBTQI+ activists, through to young migrants battling for their right to belong, teenagers simply can no longer wait for the government to assuage their fears for the future. In celebration of such titans, we trekked up and down the country to the bedrooms of 10 teens who are taking matters into their own hands. On International Youth Day, we bring you our final teen activist, 17-year-old Caitlin Carter from London. 

Part of a new generation of activists following in the footsteps of Greta Thunberg, Caitlin Carter tells me, “I am inspired by [her] as she wants to make the world a healthier place. She made us realise how we are killing our world and what we can do to help prevent this.”

Along with doing her bit to tackle the climate crisis, Carter advocates for women’s rights, “mentally and physically”. She and her friend Amanda Rusta want to “break down the taboos around periods and menstruation”, and aim to teach women of all ages about their bodies, as the recent piece she and Rusta wrote for the youth communications charity Exposure demonstrates. As with most teenagers, Carter’s favourite thing in her bedroom is her bed, closely followed by her keyboard. Musically gifted and with a passion for helping people across the globe, Carter has a future that is set to be bright.

When did you first feel like you were an activist?

“Personally, I didn’t realise that I was an activist, I just wanted to talk about something that is affecting everyone.”

What pushes you to keep on campaigning for your cause?

“[The subject of periods] is something that isn’t really talked about a lot by people. Many find it awkward or difficult to talk about how periods affect them but also how it can affect others. I also want to make sure that girls around the globe have access to the necessary products, like knickers, tampons and pads.”

What’s the best thing about being a young activist in your city?

“There’s lots of diversity in my city, so there are a lot of people who you can go and talk to or get ideas from on how to help the community.”

What do you spend the most time doing in your bedroom?

“Either watching Netflix, sleeping or composing songs on my keyboard.”

What can young people do to make the world a better place?

“I feel that young people should recycle more, do more housework, get involved and help the community – and just be nice to people in general.”

What do you want to see change about the world in 2020?

“I want there to be an improvement and realisation of how bad our climate is, to change the stigmas around mental health and to reduce the amount of knife crime in the UK.”

What’s the most comfortable pair of shoes to protest in?

“Definitely trainers.”

Portrait by Jermaine Francis. Taken from Issue 64 – BEST, FOOT, FORWARD – which is on newsstands now.