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African Youth seek more opportunity to voice their opinion

New online campaign launched to solicit youth opinions, ideas and solutions

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA / JOHANNESBURG, 16 June 2009 – On average, 30 per cent of young people, aged 15 to 17 are afraid to voice their opinions, according to a new analysis of data from qualitative surveys of youth in 38 African countries. 

The surveys conducted by Gallup World Poll were based on a continent-wide group of nearly 40,000 observations.  Many young people are not able to actively participate in their society with only a small percentage voicing their opinions to an official.

In an effort to allow more of Africa’s youth to meaningfully participate, UNICEF and partners are expanding and enhancing the existing Speak Africa platform to have more young activists and youth organizations connect and engage. Speak Africa is a continental communication platform that is helping children and young people form connections, work together, and actively engage in the critical issues affecting their lives and the development of the continent. Today the speakafrica.org website is being re-launched with exciting new features including multi-language capabilities.

“One of Africa’s greatest assets is its youth.  They are the ones with the energy, creativity and dynamism to transform the continent,” said Richard Morgan, UNICEF’s Director of Policy and Planning.   “Yet without the opportunity to express their ideas or participate meaningfully in the decision making process, we are neither respecting their rights nor able to fully gain from their valuable gifts.”

Article 11 of the African Youth Charter clearly stipulates that youth in the continent have the right to participate in all spheres of society and decision making.  These rights are also universally enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Child that all African countries besides one have ratified.

The analysis of the data, which was supported by UNICEF, provides an insight into the perceptions and opinions of young people.  The questions asked covered six themes related to their participation, safety and security, their well being, their immediate concerns and perceptions on life in their community.

On average 55 per cent of 15-17 year olds approved of their country’s leadership.  Southern Africa has the highest approval rating while Central Africa has the lowest. And on a positive note, on average 65 per cent of 15-17 year olds were satisfied with their freedom to choose what they wanted to do with their life. The poll reveals the diversity of experiences of young people on the continent as opinions and perceptions vary dramatically across countries and regions.

The Speak Africa platform will initiate debates on the critical issues affecting the continent. To start with and in the lead up to the 13th African Union Summit in July which focuses on the theme of “Investing in Agriculture For Economic Growth and Food Security”, youth will be able to log on to the website to share their experiences, take part in online debates and offer solutions on what needs to be done to make agricultural growth and food security viable.

To garner the opinion of as many African youth as possible, cell phone numbers are being established in selected countries where young people can participate in SMS surveys. The initiative, in partnership with the Praekelt Foundation, will take place in Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.  In addition, in South Africa and Egypt youth will be able record their voice messages. The SMS messages from young people across the continent will appear on www.speakafrica.org, where other young people can respond and track the debate. Speak Africa will also organize a number of moderated web debates with youth, prominent agriculturalists and development practitioners.

In addition to young people using technology to speak out, a series of activities focused on soliciting the views of young people.  The Connecting Classrooms program, for example, will enable students in classrooms in countries such as Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia to collaborate around the issues they care about using a shared online platform and knowledge base. 

To read the full results of the Gallup Poll or to get involved in the debate log in to the debate go to www.speakafrica.org

For more information, please contact:
Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF Johannesburg, Tel + 27 495 5938,
Email:  sbloemen@unicef.org
Kerida McDonald, UNICEF Ethiopia, Tel +251 11 544 4400, ext 34400,
Email: kmcdonald@unicef.org





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