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Adolescents and youth

Podcast #36: Facing challenges, young people become agents of change

'Beyond School Books' - a podcast series on education in emergencies

© UNICEF/2011
Syed Aown Shahzad, 17, a youth activist and environmentalist from Lahore, Pakistan.

'The State of the World's Children 2011 – Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity,' UNICEF’s new flagship report, focuses on the development and rights of more than a billion children aged 10 to 19 worldwide. This series of stories, essays and multimedia features seeks to accelerate and elevate adolescents' fight against poverty, inequality and gender discrimination.

By Anna Azaryeva

NEW YORK, USA, 8 March 2011 – Syed Aown Shahzad, 17, is a youth activist and vocal environmentalist from Lahore, Pakistan. He contributed an essay to ‘The State of the World’s Children 2011’ about the impact of climate change on children living in developing nations.

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As Aown explains in the essay, many young people in Pakistan still lack access to basic educational facilities and are largely unaware of causes and effects of climate change – even as their country recovers from its worst floods in living memory.

“The floods have impacted the whole country,” Aown told UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello in a recent podcast interview. “Hundreds of schools in Pakistan have been completely wiped out,” he said, adding that many of the remaining schools are now used as shelters and warehouses to store supplies – drastically curtailing access to education for children and adolescents.

Impact of education

Saeda Almatari, another 17-year-old contributor to ‘The State of the World’s Children 2011,’ is a high school student from Jordan who has been living in the United States for the past five years. Saeda’s essay focuses on images of women in the media.

© UNICEF/2011
Saeda Almatari, also 17, a high school student from Jordan who is living in the United States.

“Girls need someone to listen to them, and to teach them about the importance of getting a diploma and a career,” she said during the podcast discussion. “Education has definitely impacted my life greatly. Growing up in Jordan, I was privileged to get to go to school.”

Saeda also noted the important role of youth in protests that have been sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa, and their activities in other regions. “Young people are working for their future,” she said Saeda. “They are changing their own lives and everyone else’s lives.”

Shaping the future

Aown said that his own education – particularly his studies abroad in the United States – has broadened his horizons.

“It has definitely accentuated my potential as a change maker,” he said. “I want to bring more awareness, not only in terms of educating the youth but also empowering the youth and getting proper representation in the Government of Pakistan.”

Emphasizing the need for more young people to participate in shaping the future of their nations and communities, Aown continued: “In Pakistan, 62 per cent of population is under the age of 30, but they are immensely underrepresented. We need to work with our government and our current leaders to facilitate our cause.”




16 February 2011: UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello talks to Syed Aown Shahzad and Saeda Almatari, both 17 and contributors to 'The State of the World's Children 2011,' about young people acting as agents of change worldwide.
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'The State of the World's Children 2011'

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