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New York, 6 August 2013: The young people at the vanguard of global change

© UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0398/Markisz
Youth delegates Nina Tchangoue (left) from Cameroon and Salathiel Ntakirutimana from Burundi during the Malala Day celebration and United Nations Youth Assembly at United Nations Headquarters. They are members of the GEFI Youth Advocacy Group.

By Chris Niles

These young advocates are as diverse as their issues, but the goal is common: to ensure that the most marginalized children are not denied their right to an education, and grow up healthy and secure.

NEW YORK, United States of America, 6 August 2013 – The Youth Advocacy Group comprises 15 young people from all over the world who have committed to supporting the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI).

GEFI was launched in September 2012. It’s a five-year initiative with the aims of getting all children a basic, quality education and of fostering global citizenship.


Hear youth delegates discuss their leadership role within the Global Education First Initiative. Watch in RealPlayer

The Youth Advocacy Group met most recently at United Nations Headquarters on ‘Malala Day’, when an international youth conference celebrated the sixteenth birthday of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani rights advocate who last year was shot in the head by the Taliban on her way home from school.

The United Nations Youth Assembly gathered more than 500 young people, who presented a number of demands designed to promote universal quality education for the 57 million primary school age children who are not in school.

Youth Advocates work in a variety of fields – from promoting HIV awareness to meeting the needs of people with disabilities – but their common goal is to ensure that the most marginalized children are not denied to their right to an education, and grow up healthy and secure. 

© UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0397/Markisz
Youth delegate Rolando Villamero, Jr., from the Philippines, speaks at the Malala Day celebration and United Nations Youth Assembly at UNHQ. Mr. Villamero, Jr., promotes the rights of children living with disabilities in his native Philippines.

Rolando Villamero, Jr., 24, promotes the rights of children living with disabilities in his native Philippines. He says stigma is one of the reasons so few children with disabilities go to school.

“Eighty one per cent of children with disabilities are out of school. So, if you look at the statistics, it’s a big number,” he said. “There are lots of reasons, but the first reason is still the prevailing negative attitude of society about disability.”

Hayley McQuire, 21, is a Learning and Development Officer at the Australian Indigenous Communications Association, where she works with indigenous people to develop media careers.

“The media is so powerful, and, a lot of times, indigenous people are misrepresented. If we make a strong voice for indigenous people, then we can really start to change social attitudes,” she said.

In Moldova, Anna Susarenco, 23, works tirelessly to promote awareness of HIV and educate young people on sexual health. She feels extra urgency in her mission because the primary method of HIV transmission has changed in the past few years, from drug use to sex.

“This is something that is scaring us. It’s affecting the future of Moldova, and that’s why we are standing up and fighting,” she said.

Nina Tchangoue, 20, from Cameroon, is committed to sustainable change in her country. She works on a range of issues – from planting trees to educating young people on the issues affecting them, especially the most vulnerable.

“We make sure to include every young person from different social classes into the work we do, to make them know that they also count in the community,” she said.

 

 
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