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Adolescents and youth

Redesigned 'Voices of Youth' website helps young people build stronger communities

© UNICEF/2011
A screenshot of the new UNICEF 'Voices of Youth' website.

NEW YORK, USA, 1 March 2011 – Emer Mae Butler, 14, from Krugersdorp, South Africa, is a fan of Voices of Youth – also known as VOY – UNICEF’s newly revamped online network for children and young people around the globe.

“I have been using VOY as a platform to get my voice out there, to the whole world,” Emer says, adding that she receives updates on current news from the VOY Facebook page “on a daily basis.” She uses the network as a platform to share information on her community-improvement efforts.

Emer has started a ‘Go Green Committee’ at her local school, for example, urging teachers to limit use of electric lights and overhead projectors in classrooms, and encouraging students to recycle paper. She has also given talks to her peers on the Millennium Development Goals, explaining what they mean for young people, and has organized donations of old stationery to a nearby rural community.

Exchanging ideas

VOY was originally launched as a vehicle for more than 3,000 young people from 81 countries to send messages to world leaders at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, in Copenhagen. For Emer and many others, it has provided a valuable gateway for exchanging ideas.

“I have used VOY for networking with young people who share my passions and interests,” she says.

Now, UNICEF’s redesign of the site, to take advantage of the growing importance of social media and mobile phones, is making it even more relevant. Users can log in with existing social media accounts, such as Facebook and Orkut, and are able to vote for (or ‘like’) articles – thereby allowing them to determine the content that appears on the front page.

© UNICEF Republic of Korea/2011/Zouein
Children and adolescents receive training from UNICEF on the use of new media as a tool to express their opinion.

“Today, VOY will be re-launched as a social media and digital initiative intended to raise awareness of children's rights and encourage adolescents and young people to learn, to discuss and to take action on matters affecting their lives,” said UNICEF Youth Section Chief Gerrit Beger.

Integration with social media

Making use of social media is imperative for UNICEF and VOY to reach a new generation in both developed and developing countries. Facebook has more than 500 million active users and is growing at a rate of 500,000 new users daily. Twitter claims over 175 million users and handles 95 million tweets per day.

Integrating with Facebook is especially important. VOY has a successful Facebook page with more than 40,000 fans who discuss global issues. A newly designed multimedia tab on the VOY Facebook page will make content more interactive and allow fans to engage their friends in conversations.

VOY is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child – in particular, Articles 12, 13 and 29. These articles are dedicated to ensuring that young people have the right to participate in decision-making processes, express opinions freely and equip themselves with the knowledge and skills they need to bring about change in their lives and communities.

‘VOY can help’

The new VOY site is also more dynamic, focusing on recent news and topics of interest to young people. It will now be available in a greater number of languages, as well.

VOY will continue to follow competitions, internships, events and other opportunities of interest to young people. The redesign is just an added way that VOY aims to further empower young people like Emer.

“I want to make a difference. I believe that to better the world we live in, we need to start with the very basics,” Emer says. “We need to build stronger, safer communities, a place where everyone is willing to help their neighbour, working together. And VOY can help us with that.”



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