With millions unemployed, industries decimated, and a longstanding collective trauma from COVID-19 that looms over us, the upcoming Presidential election is perhaps the most consequential in history. It goes without saying: every vote matters—and young people are no exception.
According to the latest report, more than half or about 32.7 million registered voters belong to the youth sector, five million of which are first-time balloters. "That's how significant the youth vote is in the coming election," Commission on Elections (Comelec) director James Jimenez said in an interview, believing that “young voters may make a difference in this year’s elections”.
In line with this, Gen Z founder Patricia Evite and her youth-led organization Ekonsepto.ph want young people to be at the center of the conversation, empowering them through economic literacy.
“We’re equipping the youth to make an informed decision about the type of leader they wanna see in the government,” the 23-year-old CEO tells Candy Magazine, stressing that if enough voters are given extended economics training from that given of formal institutions, then they can “choose and actively shape the economy that they want to see in the future”.
Their program, which they recently launched as EKONOmustahan, involves careful evaluation of politicians’ economic platforms. “We want to break down the policies a candidate has planned for an economic future. We want to help voters na himayin, 'Is it really an anti-poor policy that he or she has?', for example. Basically, magiging katungga ng mga voters yung Ekonsepto for elections.”
The past years of Patricia’s life have been defined by her advocacy. She graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. She first entered the workforce through a financial technology startup, then later went on to work with the Department of Finance, utilizing economics for social good—from helping break the barriers of financial institutions for the marginalized sector to focusing on the macro-level of outsourcing funds for national appropriation. Nowadays, she works as a policy researcher for Ateneo School of Government, involved in crafting independent studies of our local economy.
From her life’s work, Patricia believes that economic empowerment is central to achieving a more equitable society—one that gives its citizens agency and meaningful participation in economic decision-making.
Thus, at the height of the pandemic in May 2020, her initiative of launching Ekonsepto.ph was born. “I was just scrolling my Facebook feed, then I found stories about COVID-19 financing wherein they’re stating yung mga utang ng bansa and there are various comments pero mostly negative,” she shares. “Parang instead na ma-frustrate ako, I took a step back and tiningnan ko 'yung perspective ng other readers.”
“I have this knowledge na necessary minsan mangutang instead of burdening people in this time,” she says, then grappled with the thought. “But then, hindi naman kasalanan ng public kung bakit di nila gets yung mga ganoong economic policy logic so instead na ma-frustrate ako diba, parang 'oo nga noh, hindi kasi readily available yung mga explanation ng reasons behind economic policies'.”
She also explains that economics is “most of the time filled with jargon and numbers”, making it intimidating to the general public. “So dun nag-start yung Ekonsepto, we wanted to break down the barriers sa pag-intindi nila ng Economics.”
What started as a six-person team now consists of 35 young individuals coming from various disciplines, all geared towards a common goal. They also have an active Facebook group of over 500 members.
To address the glaring lack of literature and readily-accessible information to the Gen Z audience, Ekonsepto regularly releases primers and infographics laymanizing economic topics and terminologies. They also conduct webinars and partner with different organizations to maximize their platform.
“We’re given this democracy and hindi natin mamamaximize yung democratic rights natin if lagi na lang hindi accessible yung logic behind specific policies. So ang goal namin dito, we wanted to invite everyone, especially the youth, to partake in the discourse of economic issues,” Patricia says.
This story originally appeared on Candymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.