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REMARKS BY UNICEF REPRESENTATIVE DELIVERED BY MS. CAROLINE BAREBWOHA ON THE INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY, 12 AUGUST 2012

Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda,
Honourable Ministers,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Representatives from Government, Local Governments and agencies,
Members the Diplomatic Community,
Members of Civil Society,
Religious Leaders,
Cultural Leaders,
Ladies, Gentlemen,
Children and Youth of Uganda.

It is a great pleasure and honour to speak on behalf of the UNICEF Representative, Dr. Sharad Sapra, on this International Youth Day in my hometown - Kabale.  The global theme for today is “Building a Better World, Partnering with Youth”.

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, has said that “All stakeholders need to acknowledge and celebrate what youth can do to build a safer, more just world. Strengthen their efforts to include young people in policies, programmes and decision making processes that benefit their future and ours”.

When the youth are allowed to participate meaningfully, it acknowledges that they are not merely passive beneficiaries of adult interventions, but that they have rights, and are capable of shaping their own destinies and contributing to the development of their societies.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics estimates that currently, 22 percent of Uganda’s population – that is, one out of every 5 Ugandans – are youth between 18 and 30 years of age.  Moreover, the Labour Force Survey of 2012 also conducted by UBOS found that 3 out of every 10 youth in Uganda are unemployed. UNICEF recognizes the need to engage all youth in Uganda actively in decision-making and creating change within the community. 

UNICEF is, therefore, supporting the development of U-report, a mobile phone SMS-based platform through which youth – including those that are hard to reach – can actively engage in monitoring community development. 

U-report enables the youth to conduct interactive dialogue, access important information and interact with Members of Parliament and policy makers.  Today, more than 135,000 youth are registered with U-report, where their voice matters.  Participation is free for all and nationwide.  All the youth have to do is TEXT J-O-I-N to 8500 to register and participate.

U-report poll results are regularly shared with the relevant district officials and legislators, and published in the national media.  For example, recently, Hon Florence Mutyabule, Member of Parliament for Namutumba District, and Hon Oleru Huda Member of Parliament for Yumbe District, were able to partner with U-reporters from their districts to address the factors causing poor performance in PLE, “O” Level and “A” Level Examinations in their respective districts.

Such partnerships amplify the voices of youth, build their confidence and enhance the credibility of youth-oriented ideas and programmes

Early this week, we consulted some of our U-reporters about today’s theme, and this is what they said:

Fatuma Namukose of the Girls Education Movement says “Youth participation ought to go beyond engaging youth politicians and civil society activists, we must engage youth in dialogue.”

Cleopatra John Byarugaba of Uganda Scouts Association says, “We can shape the world we want to see in future if we start now”.

Paul Mutebi of Uganda Scouts Association says, “A better world starts with the small positive thing you do in your community, it’s never too late to play your part in achieving this”.

Richard Omasete of Uganda Catholic Secretariat, also a U-reporter, says, “Many times, the Youth are considered or rather, perceived by our elders as problem creators and not a solution to a problem. Now is the time, to respond to our calling, let us use opportunities to stimulate our will to champion development in its rightful local, cultural, religious and technological context."

Ladies and Gentlemen, Uganda, the East African Community and the global community will achieve further development if youth are made active participants in the growth and development of our environments and economy.

Thank you for listening, and have a memorable International Youth Day.

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