Hearing the voices of young people
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Hearing the voices of young people

International Youth Day, first observed by the United Nations in the year 2000, will focus on “Transforming Education.” The aim is to highlight efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for all youth, including efforts by young people themselves.

According to the UN, International Youth Day 2019 will examine how governments, young people and youth-led and youth-focused organizations, as well as other stakeholders, are transforming education so that it becomes a powerful tool to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

People under 30 years of age – more than 2 billion people – comprise 50.5% of the world’s population.

“If the youth of today are to own the future, it is vital that we listen to their concerns, respect their views and act upon them,” said WACC General Secretary Philip Lee. “And in an era of global digital communications and social media, it is essential to strengthen media education and media literacy,” he added.

Fortunately, with digital platforms at their fingertips, young people are seizing opportunities to organize and to get involved in public debates about issues that affect them.

In December 2018, a group of more than 100 young people from countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas convened in South Africa to draw up recommendations detailing what they need to feel protected in and around school. They drafted the #ENDviolence Youth Manifesto, presented to ministers at the Education World Forum in January 2019.

Malala Yousafzai is well known as an activist for female education, working for a world where all girls can learn and lead no matter their background.

The media have also extensively reported young people’s leadership in urging governments and communities to tackle the climate crisis by working together on adaptation and survival strategies.

WACC believes that young people have the right to be heard and to be taken seriously; to free speech and to information; to maintain privacy; to develop cultural identity; and to be proud of their heritage and beliefs.

At the same time, communication efforts need to respect children’s privacy and dignity and to foster their self-esteem and confidence.


Youth at climate emergency rally May 2019, in Bavaria, Germany. Photo by Markus Spiske/Unsplash

As Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, points out in her message on International Youth Day 2019: “If we fail to include the views of young women, men, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Indigenous youth, youth with disabilities or young migrants to our way of building education systems, we are all losing something valuable; the richness of understanding different cultures and
minds, the treasure of learning from one another.”


Photo above: Egzina Sanon (L) and Dashline Exuma do their homework on the porch of their family’s home in Ganthier, Haiti. Mission Sociale des Eglises Hatiennes, a member of ACT Alliance, helped their family and other residents rebuild their homes after their village was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. By  Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance.

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