Commemorating International Youth Day by empowering, enabling and elevating young voices
UNICEF is supporting adolescents and young people to become agents of change by building their knowledge of child rights
AHMEDABAD, India: Sitting attentively, with their notepads wide open and a look of eager anticipation, the young people of Gujarat readied themselves for a day full of learning. International Youth Day, observed every year on 12 August, is a day specifically meant for them - to celebrate their achievements and amplify their voices, dreams and aspirations.
Today's youth has tremendous potential and promise to make changes and strive for a child- and youth-friendly world. Few, however, have the opportunity to influence decisions that have an impact on their lives and the lives of their communities. Their potential for influencing positive change in society is frequently undervalued. Many young adults and adolescents need opportunities and platforms that support their meaningful participation and amplify their voices.
UNICEF and Elixir Foundation, a local NGO in Gujarat, have collaborated on a strategic approach toward adolescent and young people's engagement and participation in Gujarat especially using the opportunity and platform of the Gujarat Youth Forum.
UNICEF, Elixir Foundation and Gujarat Youth Forum came together to organize the third edition of the Gujarat Youth Conclave (GYC 3.0) to celebrate International Youth Day on 12 August 2022. The Conclave brought together young minds to discuss, debate and deliver on solutions that create a positive impact.
The first two editions of the Conclave were meaningful and engaged a large number of participants from across Gujarat. Participants were thrilled to have been part of an event where they could interact with each other, share their dreams and aspirations and participate in pertinent discourses.
The Conclave began with an opening address by the Chief Guest, Lochan Sehra, Commissioner of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). Local government bodies' involvement and interaction with today's youth is a step forward in tackling the world's challenges and building intergenerational solidarity.
The commissioner stressed the role of adolescents and young people in helping duty bearers and other stakeholders build safer, cleaner, more resilient, and child-friendly cities and communities to fulfil children's rights, using the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as its foundation.
He said, "The role of adolescents and young people in responding to current safety challenges, climate change, waste management, and natural disasters are immense. Each young person has a voice and the power and ability to support rebuilding better especially post the COVID-19 pandemic. He also spoke about the AMC's commitment to setting up city innovation centres to support and inspire the next generation of problem solvers and entrepreneurs.
Echoing his sentiments, Moira Dawa, Communication, Advocacy & Partnership Specialist, UNICEF, said, "It is the responsibility of everyone to come together and prepare the youth to be ambassadors and pioneers of social change because they hold the key to progress and are the future of the world.
"The panel was extremely insightful, and I learned so much that my notepad was full within the first few minutes. It gave me a lot of perspective on my role in the world. It helped me quench my curiosity, for so many of my questions were answered." voiced an exuberant young participant.
The inaugural session was followed by a panel discussion on creating a supportive ecosystem for the young by empowering, enabling and elevating young minds. It was moderated by young changemaker Rehan Shaikh, whose stories astounded and inspired everyone present there. He truly embodied the spirit of the youth we had gathered there to celebrate.
The enthusiasm from participants knew no bounds when they saw their childhood art hero, Disney's Art Attack host, Gaurav Juyal, on stage, addressing their queries and talking about the importance of design thinking and digital literacy. Ms Amita Tandon, Education Specialist, UNICEF, brought to the fore the importance and relevance of 21st-century skills, which enables children and young people to think creatively and critically, thereby paving the way for their holistic development and successful professional life.
Ms Sharmila Ray, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, brought mental health, a much talked about issue in today's world, to the fore. She enlightened the young participants who were seen taking notes diligently about how mental health can be de-stigmatized.
With eagerness, the young attendees geared up for master workshops on entrepreneurship, photography and cybersecurity and a showcase presentation on the use of social media well conducted by subject matter experts from Gujarat University Start Up and Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC), Cyber Peace and YuWaah.
"With technology at our disposal and being able to access anything at any time, I understood the importance of recognizing this privilege and the importance of understanding it and using it wisely," said another young participant.
As part of this continued partnership with Elixir Foundation and other stakeholders, UNICEF seeks to further engage these adolescents and young people to take these learnings and messages through their peer network for more extensive amplification and outreach.
Adolescence and youth are perfect phases of life wherein the dream of creating a positive impact becomes a reality. While this may not always be easy, it is definitely worth it.
The writer is a Young Volunteer with Gujarat Youth Forum