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The power of youth - celebrating International Youth Day

Thandiwe Chama celebrating with her friends in Lusaka, Zambia.
© Dennis Brussaard/2012
Thandiwe Chama celebrating with her friends in Lusaka, Zambia.

NEW YORK, USA, 10 August 2012 – The number of young people globally has never been higher. According to the United Nation’s Population Fund (UNFPA), there are 1.8 billion young people in the world today. For most of them, life is not easy. About half of young people survive on less than $2 a day, millions are out of school and many more face unemployment.

To mark International Youth Day on 12 August, which this year has the theme: ‘Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth’, podcast moderator Kathryn Herzog spoke with four young people who have changed the world for better: Baruani Ndume, Samuel Kissi, Thandiwe Chama, and Sonam Phuntsho.

Producer Sonam Phuntsho accepts the UNICEF Prize
© MarcoOrlando027/2012
Producer Sonam Phuntsho accepts the UNICEF Prize at the Prix Jeunesse International Festival in Munich, Germany.

Education equals a better life in a more developed country

Born in a poor neighborhood of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, Thandiwe Chama’s chances of succeeding in school were slim. Her school closed down when she was eight, risking to leave Thandiwe and her friends without an education. But Thandiwe refused to stay out of school. She led a group of 60 children in a walk to find another school. Her determination paid off: the children were accepted into another school and Thandiwe received the International Children’s Peace Prize for her achievements in children’s rights, in particular the right to education.

“I believe the right to education is one of the most important human rights”, said Thandiwe. “When a child is educated, he or she will live a better life, a better future and the country will be developed”. At the age of 21, Thandiwe continues to work for a wold “where children are free and have access to education”.

Giving a voice to the refugee children and youth

Baruani Ndume lost his parents at the age of seven, while fleeing from the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the age of 14, he set up a radio program in a refugee camp in Tanzania aiming to help refugee children unite with families and to address the problems encountered by young people in the refugee camp.

“Something in my heart was telling me that there is something to be done for children who are living in difficult circumstances,” said Baruani. “I could see myself when I looked into their eyes and therefore decided to involve myself in child advocacy.”

Giant strides in youth participation

Samuel Kissi is the President of Curious Minds Ghana, a youth and media coalition committed to bringing youth voices to the mainstream press. For Samuel, youth participation means meaningful involvement in all steps of decision-making, including designing of policies and programmes.

Sharing some of the achievements of his work, Samuel said: “Recently I was able to work in capacity building of young people in Zambia, Senegal, Kenya and Ghana. In Kenya for example, young people were able to make specific recommendations to their national planning commissions …In Ghana young people were able to have an input into the global development agenda. I think these little steps are what excite me the most. We are not at a point that we can celebrate yet, but we are making giant strides”.Samuel is also a member of the UNFPA’s Media Advocacy and Communication Network in Ghana.

Media programing for youth

Sonam Phuntsho is a television producer for the Bhutan Broadcasting Service. His program, ‘Tashi and Sakteng’, was one of the finalists at the recent Prix Jeunesse International Festival, where it won the UNICEF Prize.

“Youth forms the majority of the population in my country,” said Sonam on the importance of youth participation. “It is very important that young people are involved so that they can understand things better and build a better future for themselves.” Sonam called out to his government and donor community to invest in a television station dedicated to youth.

Related Links:
The International Children’s Peace Prize
Curious Minds
Bhutanese children’s TV programme wins UNICEF Prize at Prix Jeunesse International Festival in Germany




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