Saturday, 23 January 2021

UN in your language

Give youth space to grow

UN Youth Envoy, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, at the European Development Days, 2018, Brussels

Young women and men’s role as essential agents of change in the world is highlighted on International Youth Day, August 12. With 1.8 billion young people on this planet and 400 million of them living in fragile or conflict affected areas, a space to feel safe in and engage with other young people is important for their own development and for society as a whole. Young women and girls are particularly vulnerable, as are young refugees and migrants, and LGBTQI young people. The need for more safe spaces for young people is a priority for the United Nations and this year’s International Youth Day.

A safe space can mean anything from the digital sphere to public areas. Safe spaces encourage dialogue, civic engagement and eventually bring about change. The Secretary-General’s appointed UN Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, has spent much of her tenure championing the need to include young people and the marginalized in the international decision-making process. This was summed up in her joint message for International Youth Day with Secretary-General Guterres:  “Young people need education and opportunities. Decent jobs. Meaningful participation. A voice and a place at the table.”.

As the youngest Envoy of the UN appointed by Secretary-General Guterres, she is hands-on and is interested in putting words into action when it comes to youth in politics and society. Ms. Wickramanayake was recently appointed as co-chair of the Global Climate Action Summit “I’m so honored and pleased to be invited as a Co-Chair of the Global Climate Action Summit. This is recognition of the transformative power of young people as equal partners in the fight against climate change,” And she isn’t alone in her tenacity and enthusiasm to change the status quo; other young people are pushing boundaries and contributing to Society in various ways. Amal Amjahid from Brussels, Jiu Jitsu World Champion at the age of 22, is the perfect example of what a young person can achieve with access to a safe space; in her case a Dojo.

Amal recognizes the importance of being involved and contributing to society. “These two gold medals from the World Championships do not only belong to me, but to all the women who fight daily for a better world”.

 Amal Amjahid, Belgian jiu jitsu champion

Other examples include the founder and CEO of the Ocean Cleanup Boyan Slat who is currently working on a cleanup system of the Pacific Garbage patch, trying to solve one of the biggest issues facing our planet: plastic pollution. “When talking about environmental issues in general, a common response is, well that’s a long way off, that’s for our children to worry about. Hello, Here I am.

#EUandMe, a European Commission communications campaign targets young innovative people from Europe who are drawing attention to important issues facing the world. One of the young Europeans showcased in the campaign is the founder of Straw by Straw, which tackles disposable plastic by creating straws made from hay and other reusable versions of common disposable products. They are currently being used across the Netherlands and Belgium in cafes and restaurants.

If young people are given the space to thrive, they can do amazing things. Young people could have the solutions to today’s most pressing issues.

Peace, social justice and acceptance all depend on the potential influence of youth. Not in some distant future. In making the world safe for young people, we make the world better for all.

Happy International Youth day to young people all over the world!

Visit the website: | Hashtags: #YouthDay  #SafeSpaces4Youth

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