UNICEF Representative congratulates Dunya and Nurgeldi, two young delegates, on successful participation at the Special Youth Event on the MDGs to share Turkmenistan children’s aspirations about development agenda beyond 2015
Dunya Gurbanova (16) and Nurgeldi Ushmekov (15) have recently returned from New York, where they attended a special youth event “International Youth Voices on Post-2015” organized by the Governments of Germany and Mexico with participation of other UN member states and facilitation support provided by UNICEF. This international event, moderated by Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, called together youth representatives from Mexico, Germany, UK, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone and Turkmenistan.
UNICEF Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov (OD) meets Dunya (DG) and Nurgeldi (NU) to welcome them back and find out about their impressions about the recent event.
1. OD: Watching the event on the livestream, we at UNICEF were delighted to listen to both of you and other young people, who shared the results of the national consultations about the post-2015 agenda undertaken in their respective countries and communicated priority issues to the global community. What did you feel about the event and the fact that you would be speaking on behalf of children and young people of Turkmenistan?
NU: I felt very nervous in the beginning, as it was my first experience participating in such a serious event. For the first time I stood in front of the big audience to present views of thousands of Turkmenistan children. I had big hopes that I would represent Turkmenistan with dignity and that I would meet expectations of children, our Government, and organizers of the Side Session. I believe I managed it well and I felt very proud that everyone in the audience listened to our speech attentively and respected our views.
DG: All of the children at the event, including us, were treated as respected guests and I felt very special. The Moderator Ahmad Alhendawi praised us for our good speech and later on we met the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov and the Permanent Representative of Turkmenistan to the United Nations Aksoltan Atayeva who also saluted our presentation and encouraged us to continue our active peer advocacy on development agenda.
OD: You listened to the youth representatives from countries, which differ in their population size, economic growth and development issues. Did you find any connecting points and aspirations shared among the youth of the world?
NU: Yes. Despite differences, we, children, had many things in common. We all want access to quality education, quality healthcare and inclusion of children with disabilities into our societies. We have common aspirations of living in peace, breathing the clean air and being able to participate in matters concerning our lives and expressing our views.
DG: Apart from Nurgeldi has mentioned, I would point out that all children at the event spoke about equal access to water and sanitation, road safety, equal opportunities for people in rural and urban environments and support to people in need. Ensuring all these things will bring about positive changes into our countries and will definitely contribute to the development agenda after 2015.
2. OD: What are two things/ideas you have been inspired by during the Youth Event and would like to share with your peers in Turkmenistan?
NU: I was inspired by the fact that children with disabilities freely participated at the event and expressed their opinions as any other children. I also noticed that the city of New York has created all necessary conditions for people with disabilities to freely move in the streets and buildings as well as to use public transport. I would love to see more people with disabilities enjoying active participation in society in our country. I would also like to teach my peers to support abilities of those people and especially, children with disabilities. Secondly, I would like to highlight that I liked communicating with children from various countries. My wish is to have an opportunity for all my peers to connect with children all over the world and become friends.
DG: First of all, I felt empowered to speak on behalf of Turkmenistan children as every single person in the room listened to our voices with a big interest. That inspired me to share my aspirations about the world we want after 2015 back in my country as well. My plan is to present the outcomes of the special event on youth at my school, neighbouring schools and all interested people. We were seated at a round table together with representatives from other countries, including children with disabilities. I was fascinated by the fact, that all those children had a positive attitude to life and are enthusiastic to change their societies to the better.
3. OD: I am sure that upon your return you have become well-known among your peers at your school and apart from that I wonder if you feel that you have become young advocates on child participation and development. If, yes, how do you see your new roles and its added value?
NU: Yes, I feel proud that now I can speak about development issues among my peers and that I can change something in my life and lives of people around me. My self-esteem boosted and now I consider myself a broad minded person. I would love to organize discussions on the life of children after 2015 among my friends, cousins and classmates.
DG: This event has somehow changed me and enriched my worldview and I want to share my experiences with everyone! I am ready to present at schools and other places and talk about children’s aspirations and wishes on the life they want.
4. OD: The Convention of the Rights of the Child calls the governments to ensure that every child has the right to express views freely in all matters affecting him or her. What do you think could be done by adults to ensure that those views are not only heard but also acted upon?
NU: My words to adults would be -“We are children and we are your future and we are the ones to build on what you have started. If you want to see a happy future with happy children, you ought to listen to our voices now.” Adults should listen to children’s voices and take their opinions into consideration. We hope that our words will not be left out but will be acted upon.
DG: We, children, can teach adults in things that relate to us. Who, but not children, know better what is needed for our prosperous life? Children pay attention to even small details, which adults can sometimes miss because they think of big issues. If adults listen to children’s voices, they can achieve many good things.
5. OD: And finally, after the national consultations are over and global development agenda is being shaped by country inputs from all over the world, what are the key words of your personal dreams about the future you aspire after MDGs?
NU: My personal dream is to be able to travel to any part of the world meeting new people, making new friends and learning about other peoples’ culture and life. I want this dream to come true to all of the children of the world. I also dream of the world where every person would enjoy his/her rights regardless of nationality or age. I want a world where everyone is respected. And finally, my dream and probably, dream of all my peers, is to have an equal opportunity for education both at home and abroad. I want children in even very small remote villages to enjoy going to schools and getting educated.
DG: My personal dream is to have the best life not only for me, but for all children in Turkmenistan and around the world. If we meet all expectations of children expressed in the Post 2015 consultations, we will reach our goals of growing and developing in a happy, nurturing environment.
OD: Very soon the Government and UNICEF are planning to organize an outcome conference on voices of Turkmenistan children on Post 2015 development agenda. We are also to hold a high level policy event to promote the right of every child to education in November. I would like to invite both of you as youth representatives to participate at those policy discussions.
NU: Thank you for invitation, I would be delighted to share my impressions with a bigger group of people. Dunya and I have been already approached by media to give an interview to Turkmenistan’s major newspapers which will let us share our experiences with thousands of people. I hope we will have more events like the Special Session on youth voices on Post 2015 both in Turkmenistan and other countries.
DG: If we have more events where children’s opinions will be listened to, I would be happy to take an active role and share my experiences among peers and adults.