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At a glance: France

Youth leaders brainstorm with top scientists at BioVision Forum

© UNICEF video
Hannah Gama (centre) of Malawi talks with other young leaders at the BioVision World Life Sciences Forum in Lyon, France.

By Thomas Nybo

LYON, France, 9 March 2007 – Hannah Gama, 15, has traveled all the way from Malawi to meet some of the world’s top scientists gathering here for the BioVision World Life Sciences Forum.

She is joined by nine other young leaders – from Burkina Faso, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lao PDR, Morocco, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Philippines and Tajikistan – who will share their experiences and learn new strategies to improve living conditions in their home countries. 

“It’s really important for children to be at BioVision,” says Hannah. “In true reality, if we look at the problems concerning health, nutrition and agriculture, they are faced by children.

“So I think it’s much better for the children to present their problems individually rather than the adults to present them,” she adds, “because many adults do not really know what the children face.”

Breakfast with Nobel laureates

The biannual BioVision Forum brings together Nobel Prize-winning scientists, members of the media and leaders of society and industry to address vital life-science issues facing the world in the areas of health, agriculture and the environment. This year’s forum is dedicated to the contribution of life sciences to the Millennium Development Goals – including progress on safe water, proper sanitation and adequate nutrition.

On the opening day of the BioVision Forum, 11 March, the children will have a breakfast meeting with three Nobel laureates. This will give the young people a platform for expressing their views to the forum’s adult participants.

© UNICEF video
Young leaders from 10 countries prepare for their talks with top scientists and policymakers at the BioVision Forum.

The children have already been brainstorming about these ideas for several days as part of the UNICEF-BioVision Children’s Forum held in the run-up to the larger meeting.

The young leaders are also undergoing media training to better communicate their messages when talking with print and broadcast journalists. 

Calling adults to action

The children now gathered in Lyon have already achieved impressive results with related programmes in their respective countries. For example:

  • Hannah is focused on improving sanitation in Malawi’s juvenile detention centres
  • Irene Phungoh of Kenya, at just 16, is a leading health advocate for the elimination of female genital cutting
  • Hao Wang of China has dedicated his energies to protecting the environment in China, particularly its water supplies.

In the course of their discussions here, the young leaders will be putting together a Children’s Call to Action, which they will present to a plenary session on the forum’s last day, 14 March.

The director of the BioVision.Nxt programme for young scientists, Abigail Gemo, says the direct way in which children communicate can teach adults a thing or two. “Children provoke the thinking of the experts who will be at BioVision,” she says, “and help those experts understand … exactly what needs to be done in order for their world to become a better world.”




9 March 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the young leaders participating in the BioVision Forum in Lyon, France.
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