In June 2016, the World YWCA sought to involve more youth in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) session in Geneva, Switzerland. Together with our partners, we invited youth from around the world who were passionate about their rights and politics to come to the UN HRC and exchange perspectives and ideas on common issues of concern to them. At the end of the session, the youth also presented a youth declaration to the HRC.
Most youth agreed it was an incredible experience that left them feeling empowered and ready to drive change. Some were inspired, yet conflicted about what they heard. Here are a few perspectives from the individual youth participants:
It was incredible to see young people who were confident and not afraid to speak their minds! The Youth Forum helped us better recognize and understand the issues that youth face in both developed and developing countries. Though there were common issues, the contexts and priorities were so different. That was the first time I actually thought that I understood how the marginalized communities in our country felt among the rest. It was a very practical experience for me.
In addition to the Youth Forum, I also attended the Annual Consultation with NGOs by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), where I heard some of the touching stories of young refugees. These stories highlighted how the young refugees have struggled with statelessness; how this has caused them to miss great opportunities and also how they have overcome these challenges.
During the HRC Youth Forum, I chose to work with the group discussing “Youth, gender & diversity” because in Mozambique we face many challenges regarding including youth in decision making. This is especially true for young women and girls, who are often marginalized in our society and struggle with becoming child brides and young mothers. Mozambique is a country with a lot of laws, but we are still struggling with implementing these laws. To end child marriage, sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence against women and girls, we need to implement laws, policies and strategies that eliminate all forms of harmful practices.
As youth we demand changes, and although there has been some progress at the United Nations (UN), we are determined, now, more than ever, to make sure that youth are not left out of decision-making processes. The time has come for youth to make their voices heard at the international, national and regional levels. Youth voices from all around the globe, especially from developing countries, help promote and protect youth rights. From the grassroots level, youth can change the world!