Engaging Youth in Turkmenistan
Today’s teens are tomorrow’s civil society
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 11 August 2006 – Seventy teenagers recently gathered in Turkmenistan^s capital city, Ashgabat, to participate in the 2nd National Children’s Forum. For two days, the young people, 14 to 16 years old, discussed issues of health, education and child protection and made recommendations to policymakers, programme planners and local-level authorities.
“This Forum is a major step in pressing forward with child and youth participation. This process enables young people to advocate for policies that will ensure the realisation of their rights in Turkmenistan,” said UNICEF Programme Coordinator Regina Molera during the opening ceremony.
For 14-year-old Alexander Zasorin, the Forum was an opportunity to present his views and those of his peers whom he represents from Marys, one of five provinces from where Forum participants hail. It is his opportunity to make sure that their views are heard by the Parliament in Ashgabat.
Consultation meetings with young people from the provinces – Akhal, Balkan, Dashoguz, Lebap and Mary – were held prior to the National Forum. This was to ensure that the views of young people from other parts of the country are well-represented. The consultation meetings were also an opportunity for the young people to select their representatives to the National Forum in Ashgabat.
Participation of young people is one of the key initiatives that UNICEF supports in partnership with the Youth Union and National Children’s Fund of Turkmenistan. “Young people make up almost half of this country’s population,” said UNICEF Social Policy Officer Shohrat Orazov. “UNICEF and the Government recognise the role that children and young people can play in promoting and protecting child rights here. By engaging young people in policy dialogue and advocacy, we are, in a way, contributing to the development of civil society,” Mr. Orazov added.
Further equipping of children with knowledge on national and international legislation on child rights and engaging them in the policymaking dialogue were among the key recommendations suggested by the youth participants. The recommendations will be presented at a Parlementarian roundtable meeting at the year’s end.
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Mr. Shohrat Orazov