FEATURE: Youth activists share unique experiences at UN-backed Global Forum on Youth Policy

Participants at First Global Forum on Youth Policies, Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo: Global Forum on Youth Policies

30 October 2014 – While many challenges facing young people today are universal, youth activists and experts attending the First Global Forum on Youth Policy today shared with the UN News Centre how war, poverty, lack of adequate education and geographic isolation shape their work.

Gathering in Baku, Azerbaijan for a three-day UN–backed Forum, hundreds of policymakers, experts, researches and activists came together for a second-day of panel discussions, side events and bilaterals aimed at bridging the gap between youth and the policy that affects them. The Forum concluded today.

Youth unemployment, one of the most profound obstacles facing young people today is universal. However, a booming economy does not necessarily translate to jobs for young people, as in the case of Mongolia, said Bolortsetseg Sosorburam, head of policy planning at the non-governmental group, Mongolian Youth Federation.

“There are so many places to work, but there are not enough young people who are qualified to work there. They lack the experience. At Universities, we have to start practice-based education so that they can work right after.”

In earlier times, people mostly studied economics, law and languages but because the economy is booming so fast, there is need for engineers, construction workers, and mining working. Bridging the skills-gap requires a “change in attitude when choosing a profession.”

Indeed, young people have unique needs, and it is important to ensure that they are financially literate from a young age, said Sameer Chand, an analyst at the Reserve Bank of Fiji. Financial services must be accessible and affordable for young people, he told the UN News Centre.

“While we talk about the issues of employment, entrepreneurship, health and services, one issue that cuts across all these is access to financial services, and I believe this is an issue that needs to be incorporated in the youth policies of all the countries and Fiji is no exception,” he said.

Fiji’s reserve bank has taken the lead in developing a national financial youth literacy strategy, the main goal of which is to improve financial competency in rural areas and villages.

Through financial training programmes spearheaded by the private sector, young people “rather than dipping into the poverty cycle, can come out of it,” said Mr. Chand. By starting young and incorporating financial education into curriculums the next generation will come out of school financially literate.

“They will know what saving is. They will know what budgeting is,” said Mr. Chand.

But if there is no peace as in the case of Gaza, the priority shifts entirely from building financial portfolios to building nations.

“It’s very important to get young people involved in not only rebuilding Gaza but building the State of Palestine,” said Ziad Yaish from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), also attending the Global Youth Forum.

Young people in the State of Palestine are a “special case” because they live under occupation, he added. In Gaza, there is “tremendous” need for jobs, youth empowerment and participation. Young people in both Gaza and the West Bank need hope and a chance at a better future.

Following a trip to Gaza where he met with youth groups, he said that UNFPA developed a proposal of civic participation of youth to ensure that their voices are heard with the Government and other donors.

“During the war last summer, youth groups were the first to come out and help the internally displaced people and people who suffered from the war,” Mr. Yaish said.

Young people are becoming increasingly active in their futures as well. In Baku from Oman, 21-year-old activist, Mazoon Alzadjali said in her country, she works as a peer educator raising awareness about HIV/AIDS among 13-30 years- olds and informing young women of their reproductive rights.

“We always use a fun, educational way, because actually it is the only way peers can connect and gather the information and keep it in their mind,” she said.

Through the Youth Educational Network, a programme run by UNFPA, a football game is used to educate players and the crowd about health and services. And by using puppets Ms. Alzadjali spreads information to young girls about the benefits of family planning.

“We educate girls and young women marriage and having kids by using puppets and through a show. With a girl who wants to get married, especially if she’s under 18, we educate her on getting an education first and then getting married,” said Ms. Alzadjali.


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