Seeking to help youth tackle the problems they see in their communities, UNICEF launched the Youth Advocacy Guide. Co-created with young African citizens, the Guide aims to empower young people with skills to bring about positive change in their lives and communities.
The Guide was created through workshops with young people in Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and Côte d’Ivoire, along with hundreds more, from dozens of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, submitting input via the internet. The Youth Advocacy Guide seeks to support their efforts to address concerns ranging from unemployment to child safety, the quality of education to climate emergencies.
“If child and youth-focused policies are positioned now, growth and equality can take the place of poverty and unfairness,” said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “And with the world’s 10 youngest countries being in Africa, never has there been such a critical moment to listen to the youth of the continent. They want a seat at the table, where decisions are made about their world. The UNICEF Youth Advocacy Guide aims to help them find that seat and articulate their opinions.”
The launch of the Youth Advocacy Guide comes at a special time. This year we commemorate 30 years of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. The four core principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of young people. UNICEF believes the Youth Advocacy Guide is a tool for young people to access what is envisioned in the Convention.
The Guide will help youth as they embark on fact-finding missions to gain a deeper understanding of their issues, develop an advocacy plan, and then meaningfully engage with policy. It also has sections on the importance of networking with like-minded individuals and how best to research topics of interest.
At the Youth Advocacy Guide workshops – run by UNICEF and implementing partner, The South African Institute of International Affairs – the young authors discussed their experiences in youth engagement and the barriers preventing them and their peers from creating the change they want to see. Many felt they are not taken seriously by adults, while others expressed a lack of understanding of policies that affect them and the processes of public participation. In the Guide, the writers offer proactive ways to overcome these challenges.
Sixteen-year-old Dorcus Econi attended the workshop in Uganda. She told her peers she is one of very few girls in her community who managed to escape marriage at an early age. “I dream of a future where girls are enrolled in schools, and are active in school clubs, so our skills and passions can be developed, allowing us better opportunities in the future,” she said. “I believe the UNICEF Youth Advocacy Guide will help me advocate for girls’ rights, by explaining the steps I can take to create change.”
The UNICEF Youth Advocacy Guide can be found at www.voicesofyouth.org/youthadvocacy. It will also be made available in hard copy format at UNICEF offices and partner organisations.
UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org