|Mariel García Montes is a Voices of Youth member and youth activist.|
By Maria Cristina Gallegos
NEW YORK, USA, 18 March 2010 − Voices of Youth (VoY) is UNICEF’s interactive online community platform where, since 1995, children and young people have found a safe and supportive space where they can explore, discuss and take action on issues related to human rights and social change.
By participating in VoY, young people develop leadership abilities, help build communities, and hone their critical thinking skills through active and substantive participation with their peers and with decision makers across the globe. Twenty-year-old Mariel García Montes joined Voices of Youth in 2004, and recently stopped by UNICEF’s New York Headquarters to tell us about her experiences in the programme.
An active member
From Mexico, Mariel García Montes became a VoY member in December 2004. She is now 20 years old and continues to be one of VoY’s most active members, both in the Spanish, and in the English forums.
Ms. García Montes was also a semi-finalist in the 2007 Make a Difference Video Contest held by UNICEF, and is adept at using digital media as a tool in her social activism work. Once a web administrator of a youth media exchange website, she now studies philosophy at the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, and plans to pursue a career in social entrepreneurship.
Ms. García Montes believes in the mission of VoY and its ability to support all children and young people, including the hard-to-reach, through active participation and engagement. She said her view of the world was broadened by interacting with people from different religions and parts of the world. And she’s also maintained many close friendships from among those she met in the forum.
“I have friends today that I met through Voices of Youth who are from India, Peru… people who I speak to almost every day and I really feel identified with,” she said.
Honing her skills
Through VoY, Ms. García Montes said she has honed her debate skills and now feels comfortable holding a respectful debate with people who have differing opinions. And she said she has used these skills in the Model UN, and at the Global Youth Summits.
Since Voices of Youth began, more than 45,700 children and young people have participated in the online community. The site has discussion forums and online competitions, activities, surveys, games, polls and other creative initiatives in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.
Young people can join the discussion forum by visiting the ‘speak out’ section on www.unicef.org/voy.
Mexican youth activist Mariel García Montes speaks about her experiences in the Voices of Youth forum.