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“Let’s Keep the Promises Made to Youth during Rio+20”

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye

Fatuma Namukose is one of the young people who attended the recently concluded Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil.  A 26-year old officer in charge of Clubs and Chapters at the Girls Education Movement (GEM), Fatuma recently affirmed that the conference was a great platform for youth to be heard and to showcase the different activities they do around the world.

Youth issues took centre-stage at the UN conference that brought together thousands of people, including heads of state, government ministers, youth groups, civil society organizations, diplomats and other stakeholders from all over the world, to discuss ways of determining a better future for everyone. 

A Voice of Youth in Rio
In Rio, delegates discussed key issues on creating a green economy, and improving the way people live while preserving the environment. Leaders – including those from Uganda – made firm commitments toward addressing the high unemployment rates among the youth, making cities safer and more sustainable for young people, and ensuring youth participation in decision-making at the national level.  They also pledged to ensure availability of health services for young people. 

“Being a voice of the youth at this conference, and being a part of something that is going to shape the future was incredible. It was a dream come true,” says Fatuma.
Not only did she participate, but Fatuma ensured that youth issues were a part of all the meetings she attended.

Rio+20 and U-reporters
Rio+20 proved a perfect opportunity to showcase the successes of U-report, a youth-driven innovation developed and supported by UNICEF Uganda. U-report is a free mobile phone SMS-based community development monitoring system that enables young Ugandans to speak out on what is happening in communities across the country. 

At the conference, Fatuma described the benefits of U-report and how it works in Uganda, and encouraged participants and fellow youth to consider using the platform, since it promotes youth participation and engagement on issues that affect them. She encouraged the youth to be proactive and take action, instead of sitting back to wait for their respective Governments to decide on issues concerning the world.

Now back in Uganda, in discussing with Ugandan youth the creation of employment opportunities, Fatuma cites the example of Brazilian youth who use available resources, such as sisal, to make bags and other materials, an idea that she says the youth in Uganda can replicate to become job creators, rather than seekers.

She appeals to Uganda’s youth to use all avenues available to them – including youth groups, youth representatives in parliament, and youth councils – to ensure that they are heard.

“Let’s make it hard for them to ignore our presence or participation,” she says. “Post Rio+20 activities will engage different ministers and government sectors and this will be a good platform to ensure youth are heard.” 

Fatuma hopes that all heads of state in attendance will deliver on the promises made at the conference, to ensure a better today and a good future for all. 

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