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Voices of Youth website revamp increases opportunities for engagement

By Kate Pawelczyk

Voices of Youth, UNICEF's digital community for children and young people, has had a significant makeover in order to take advantage of changes in the digital landscape and to maximize engagement opportunities for children from around the world.

NEW YORK, United States of America, 5 June 2013 – In honour of its eighteenth birthday this year, UNICEF's digital community for children and young people – Voices of Youth – is moving into a new chapter to take advantage of recent changes in the digital landscape and to maximize engagement opportunities for children from across the globe. >"In those days, hearing-impaired children were hidden away, neglected."

A changing digital environment

When Voices of Youth was established by UNICEF in 1995, with the goal of giving children and young people an online space to discuss issues that are important to them, the Internet was available to a small number of people. In recent years, access to the online world has ceased to be a luxury limited to a relative few. While barriers to access remain, the convergence of affordable feature phones and flexible pre-paid schemes has meant that access to – and ownership of – digital tools has become a reality for millions around the world. Most importantly, in the majority of countries, children and young people are the ones driving this increased uptake.

"As the world's leading advocate for child rights, it is only fitting that UNICEF has a platform where young people can exercise the right to express themselves, and through which UNICEF can communicate with young people on matters that affect them," says Director of the UNICEF Division of Communication Paloma Escudero. "Access to digital tools around the world is growing at a rapid pace, and this is creating wonderful prospects for expanding the reach and impact of Voices of Youth."

Creating more opportunities for engagement

To ensure that as many young people as possible are able to join in the dialogues and exchanges on Voices of Youth, the website will now employ responsive design – making it more accessible via mobile phones. Increasingly, users around the world are accessing the Internet from mobile devices – in Kenya around 99 per cent of Internet subscriptions are mobile – making this feature a crucial one. In addition, a robust social media presence brings Voices of Youth to those children and young people for whom it is easier to connect via Twitter or Facebook.

As part of the improvements, the Voices of Youth website has also been upgraded with a revamped design that introduces new interactive features such as monthly polls and debates and a streamlined commenting system. In addition, the redesigned website sees the official integration of the digital engagement initiatives Voices of Youth Citizens, Voices of Youth Connect and Voices of Youth Maps, which promote safe and responsible use of digital tools and empower young people to investigate issues in their lives and communities, to take action and to report back on the platform. Each of the digital engagement initiatives has a dedicated section on the website where news and resources, such as guides to action and videos, are available for download.

With the goal of introducing more diverse voices to the discussions on Voices of Youth, May 2013 saw the start of the Voices of Youth bloggers programme with nine bloggers from nine different countries – Armenia, Colombia, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, the Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. For a period of six months, these young people will write weekly submissions for Voices of Youth on a range of topics and issues of relevance to young people.

Join the global conversation, join Voices of Youth

Voices of Youth offers numerous opportunities for those who wish to be part of a global community of empowered and socially conscious young people. Creating a profile on the website is simple and quick, and everyone is encouraged to create her or his own written, photo or video posts about one of the themes on the site or simply to share news to raise awareness or inspire others. Voices of Youth is currently available in English, French and Spanish – with plans to expand to other languages in the near future. The site also contains a wealth of resources for youth and community organizations, clubs and teachers to design initiatives for positive action on the ground. To learn more – and to add your voice, visit: @voicesofyouth





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