By Thomas Nybo
ENTEBBE, UGANDA, 20 July 2010 – A group of more than 100 young people from across Africa are ready to deliver a clear message to leaders of the countries in the African Union, who will be attending the 2010 AU Summit in Kampala, the Ugandan capital.
|VIDEO: 19 July 2010 - UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the African Youth Forum in Uganda and the call to action composed by Forum participants.|
The youth delegates, representing 40 countries in Africa, gathered here in Entebbe this week for the first-ever African Youth Forum (AYF). They've just finished writing a call to action that two of them will deliver to the continent’s Heads of State early next week.
The young leaders worked together over the three-day meeting to produce their collective recommendations with regard to maternal, infant and child health, the main focus areas of the AU Summit. They also tackled such topics as gender-based violence and the role of poverty in child mortality.
Promoting youth participation
"We hereby urge our governments to … [i]ntegrate, scale up and regularly update life skills and sexual reproductive health education into school curricula as well as out of school programmes in line with Article 16 of the African Youth Charter,” says the AYF call to action.
|South African delegate Bonolo Cebe, 18, leads the African Youth Forum session finalizing the meeting's call to action for leaders attending the 2010 African Union Summit in Kampala, Uganda.|
The statement continues: “We strongly urge our Governments to invest in capacity development of peer educators [and] youth volunteers, and fund youth-led initiatives and youth centres to promote our participation in life skills and Sexual Reproductive Health research, advocacy, training and monitoring.”
The message also stresses accountable, responsible and healthy life choices for young people themselves.
‘The world will belong to you’
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was on hand for the AYF opening session. He was joined by UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow, who urged the participants to embrace positive change.
|African Youth Forum delegates gather with the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (centre) at the meeting site in Entebbe.|
"The world is a dangerous place," she said, "not only because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing. Be the change you wish to see in this world. You can do it. The young are the majority. The world will belong to you."
Ms. Farrow also shared her reasons for supporting development in Africa.
"I've been travelling across this great continent for almost two decades now," she said. "I have seen war, I have seen violence, I have seen famine. I have held dying babies in my arms – babies dying from hunger, children dying from HIV/AIDS. I have seen the worst that human beings can do to each other, and I have also seen, and been inspired by, the greatest courage, generosity, kindness and incomparable goodness. I have seen the very best of humanity on this continent."
Voices to be heard
Speaking at the Forum's press conference, UNICEF Representative in Uganda Dr. Sharad Sapra lauded the young people’s message to African leaders.
|UNICEF Goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow speaks to delegates at the opening of the African Youth Forum in Entebbe, Uganda.|
"The young, as I've met here and seen in many countries that I've worked – they're full of aspirations," he said. "They want to make a difference. And they want to be engaged. And they want to be a part of the solutions. They want their voices to be heard and their ideas to be heard."
To make sure these young voices are heard, the two AYF representatives selected by their peers will read key points from the call to action on 25 July at the AU Summit ceremony for Heads of State, and again the next day at the First Ladies of Africa meeting.
Call to Action of the 2010 African Youth Forum
(external link, opens in a new window)