“Sustainable development policies cannot be fully achieved without youth angles, perspectives and voices,” said Sana Afouaiz, a women’s advocate and blogger from Morocco. She believes that young people today should have the opportunity to participate in the political dialogue; it is their future that is at stake, and they need to ensure they are a part of it.
Her views echo those of many policy makers and development practitioners. Neven Mimica, the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) recently stated that “Young people are the future of development. As they are the people who will be the most affected by the decisions we take now, it is important to listen to their views and take them into account.”
So how can we involve youth in development?
Sana has visited the United Nations, African Union and European Union to speak and advocate for Youth and Women’s empowerment. These experiences led her to start a platform Youth Voice, to share what she believes in with the rest of the world.
On Youth Voice, Sana describes herself as a blogger and futurist thinker. She uses the platform to communicate experiences through story-telling, to run social campaigns, as well as sharing tools to empower women. In one of her posts Sana imparts top tips on how to become a successful woman, encouraging women from around the world to claim their rights. Many of her posts have been shared on women empowerment websites, catching a wider audience; in World Pulse, Foresight For Development, MENAC, WECAN, Organization for World Peace, Restless Development and so on.
“Youth involvement in dialogue is not just important, but it is a necessity for the development of any type of community,” said Sana. She was invited to attend the European Development Days (EDDs) to speak on the panel From G7 to New York via Addis: What would youth do? Organised by ONE, an international organisation that campaigns to end extreme poverty and preventable diseases, this was a youth-only led session.
Sana believes that what happens at the EDDs will have repercussions worldwide, so it is important to her that young people speak up, as their voices provide us with “supreme power to challenge norms and to accept and adapt to change.”
She also shared success stories from her platform. You can listen to a podcast of the event here. In the following video she summaries two striking stories about women who fought for the respect of their human rights.
A recent Eurobarometer survey of 28,050 people revealed that many young Europeans (aged 15-24) support development and believe that we should keep our promise to increase aid to developing countries. Yet levels of volunteering and political activism remain low; 7% and 3% respectively.
Michael and Chloé are among the European youth who volunteer in ONE’s Young Ambassadors Program: a program for people aged 18-35 to fight against extreme poverty through campaigns, media, and meeting and lobbying high-level decision makers. Both of them were present at the EDDs to meet other youth activists, and to volunteer on ONE’s stand, in the practice village.
Housing 50 stands the village offered a place for attendees to meet and share outcomes and lessons learned from projects that they are operating. Michael and Chloé’s role on the stand involved explaining how youth can be more involved in development issues.
Chloé, who advocates for ONE in Brussels, believes that youth’s success in advocating against poverty is mainly driven by their passion on the matter. “We are a generation that doesn’t know any barriers”, and “having all these digital [communication] tools, […] it’s much easier to participate and advocate. To be on social media,” Chloé feels is really an advantage.
Luka Doering, a Youth Ambassador for World Vision in Germany worked on a social media campaign – Talk Less Act More – to raise awareness on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “It was a campaign launched in three difference countries. We had youth from Romania, youth from Austria and youth from Germany.” Due to the geographical spread, they used social media tools to spread their message.
Click here to watch a video where Luka explains her campaign and what she learnt from it.
Chloé’s opinion is confirmed by the Eurobarometer survey, which revealed that most youth turn to the internet for information related to development issues, while those over 25 rely on the television for their information.
For Michael, the most important thing is to be “informed and be engaged”, and in return, this will lead to change because “young people have a loud voice”. He explained that if used efficiently, a young person’s voice can change the global agenda.
“I think that there are a lot of topics you can tackle, and there are a lot of people out there who can actually choose which topic they want to get involved in,” said Michael.
In the following video they discuss the issue of connecting and advocating at a European level:
They later mentioned that “petition is another form of expressing your voice”. The more signatures they get the more noise they can make, as they create “a critical mass of people who actually believe in something, in an idea, in a goal”. ONE’s current petition, Poverty is Sexist, has collected more than one million signatures from activists across the world. It was recently presented at the African Union Summit in Johannesburg, to no less than six African heads of state, leading to a list of commitments that focus on women and girls.
Chloé believes that petitions are a great communication tool because they are simple and everyone can access them, especially young people. Petitions are also important as politicians care about public opinion, and really do take them into consideration. ONE’s website explains that neither petitions nor lobbying work effectively on their own, but that it takes both to get the results they want.
For example in 2014, the ONE VOTE 2014 Campaign gathered over 71,000 signatures, asking Members of European Parliament (MEP) to “to honour the European Union's promises on providing aid for the world's poorest, and to make governments and businesses more transparent and accountable.” ONE’s Youth Ambassadors then lobbied the MEPs to sign a pledge agreeing to this, gathering 391 signatures out of 751 MEPs; over 50%.
Capacity4dev also spoke with four other youth ambassadors from World Vision. You can watch their interviews in the following blogs:
Empowering Today’s Youth – Part 2: Edgleison, Edgars and Maruba
This article was drafted by Daphne Thomas, a 16 year old student who carried out a placement working with capacity4dev in June 2015. She attended the European Development Days carrying out interviews with other youth.
For more information on youth:
Visit the Youth in Development group
Watch a video in the European Year for Development group where World Vision Germany Youth Ambassador Luka Doering shares her experience on development awareness raising and activating youth
Watch the youth contributions from the EDDs 2013 that were published in Youth Week on capacity4dev last year.
Visit Sana's blog where you can read more about her campaigns including the amendment of article 475 and Amina's story.
This collaborative piece was drafted by Daphne Thomas with support from the capacity4dev.eu Coordination Team.
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