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The child in the family

The adolescent in the family

© UNICEF/HQ99-0477/ Pirozzi
In 1999 in Rwanda, Cyiza, 17, (right) stands with his arm around hismother in the village of Rubungo, outside Kigali, the capital. Cyiza recently rejoined his family after being held since 1994 at the GitagataRehabilitation Centre.

Adolescence is one of life’s fascinating and perhaps most complex stages. Adolescents have the potential to break cycles of violence, poverty and discrimination that pass one generation to the next. When supported by caring families, adolescents thrive in unimaginable ways, becoming resourceful and contributing members of families and communities.

UNICEF believes that families are central in enabling adolescents to develop to their fullest. UNICEF programming aims to strengthen families as they have the primary responsibility to care for children from early childhood through adolescence, so that they feel safe, connected, valued, informed, free and able to discuss their concerns and needs.

Focusing on adolescents promotes public health, social and economic progress, and democracy. For UNICEF, a focus on adolescents is about child and human rights. Adolescents have the right to information and skills; access to services, such as education, health, recreation and justice; a safe and supportive environment; opportunities to participate and to have their voices heard. UNICEF is committed to building the capacities of the families and communities to expand adolescents’ choices and opportunities and their ability to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

Adolescence is also a period of transition, when adolescents start to turn their attention away from home and start contributing to society in remarkable ways as young community leaders, workers, caretakers and role models.  With greater autonomy, they no longer see themselves as children, but they recognize that they are not yet adults. They begin looking for answers from families, teachers and peers to a multitude challenges they now face.

UNICEF is finding innovative ways in working with families and extending partnerships to create opportunities for adolescents to become not only competent, but connected, caring and committed members of society. This can only be achieved if adolescents are  protected and empowered through 1) access to information, skills and services; 2) supportive environment in family, school and community; and 3) meaningful participation in defining their priorities within the national development agenda. 

See examples from Jordan and Mongolia for ways these UNICEF country offices are approaching the adolescent in the family.



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