Stories from the Field is an ongoing series from our United Nations Country Teams around the world, highlighting issues, success stories, and actions taken to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

Today, there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10-24 and close to 90 percent of them live in developing countries. These numbers are expected to grow—1.9 billion young people are projected to turn 15 between 2015 and 2030. It’s more important than ever that young people mobilize to realize the change they want in the word.

In this edition of Stories from the Field, we highlight actions in the Middle East and Brazil to see how young people are making a difference in helping achieve the SDGs.


Goal 5 | Gender Equality

The One Win Leads to Another programme is a joint programme by UN Women and the International Olympic Committee that offers sports and life skills trainings for adolescent girls’ empowerment. Teenage girls from vulnerable communities in Rio de Janeiro may not always be aware of their rights and how they impact their lives, be it from practicing sports or occupying public spaces, or live free from gender-based violence. According to statistics, one woman in Brazil is killed every 2 hours (UN Women), and sexual harassment and assault is rampant. Teaching women and girls about their rights at an early age, the programme creates safe spaces for girls to practice sports, develop fundamental life skills, acquire tools and resources to fight for their rights, increase their agency, and see themselves as change makers.

I want girls to be aware of their own power and I want to use mine to keep fighting for equal rights,” says Sara Vieira, a 16-year-old taking part in the programme. “I realized I should use my voice to share my knowledge… like prejudice against girls playing certain sports, abusive relationships, and violence against women and girls. We are all learning together.”

Elaine Ribeiro, an 18-year-old participant, also finds the programme empowering: “I see [my friends] become more aware of racial issues, more respectful with LGBT people, and freer to express themselves as they really are. What I’ve learned is that when we change, everything around us also changes.”

Many of the participants go and create their own projects to foster gender equality in their local communities – by 2020, almost 2,000 adolescent girls will have benefited from the programme.

From UNIC Rio


Goal 5 and 13 | Gender equality and Climate Action

Aimed at empowering young people aged 19-25 to develop effective gender-sensitive plans for climate change adaptation and water management, the West Asia North Africa (WANA) Institute implemented a project targeting SDG 5 and 13.

‘Climate Change Youth Ambassadors’ were selected through a Climate Change competition that asked young people to submit their innovative ideas to combat climate change at the local level. The ambassadors were then given climate-oriented trainings to better understand climate change science, and learn the skills to formulate and implement local, gender-sensitive adaptation plans. One of the most important projects was the development of three local Climate Change Adaptation Plans as seen through a youth lens, and where the Youth Ambassadors will be leading the discussions with key policy-makers and other stakeholders. The three Adaptation Plans are also expected to feed into the National Adaptation Plan adopted by The Ministry of Environment in Jordan.

From UNIC Beirut

Goal 4 | Quality Education

Launched in 2012 in Jerash Souf camp, some 30km north of Amman, the I-learn initiative works to establish safe spaces for disadvantaged children and youth so as to encourage innovation, intellectual growth, and critical thinking. I-Learn is an initiative founded by an orphaned Palestinian refugee called Saddam Sayyaleh who grew up in Souf Palestinian Refugee Camp in Jerash, Jordan, and who was often abused physically and mentally. Out of his harrowing experience and his genuine willingness to help other children from his own community to get better opportunities, Saddam mobilized young educated volunteers to provide informal education, promote youth volunteerism, and engage in local and global partnerships, all of which contribute to the achievement of Goal 4. In less than six years, I-learn has grown to serve some 12,000 people in eight so-called ‘spaces for knowledge’ established in different refugee camps in Jordan, and which provided young refugees with non-traditional learning opportunities and safe spaces for dialogue and interaction, where they were able to express themselves freely and acquire basic computer skills, as well as leadership and life-supporting skills.

I-Learn later expanded to other areas of implementation and was able to gain the support of several entities, including the UN. More specifically, it partnered with UNRWA to integrate this initiative in UNRWA schools as extracurricular activities in Jerash camps. Grounded in the needs of those “left behind”, I-Learn was able to reach out to over 8,000 children (aged 9 to 13) and around 1400 families, and helped around 120 young Palestinians find a decent remunerated job, not to mention that it also generated local educators and role models for future young generations.

From UNIC Beirut


Goals 4, 16 and 17 | Quality Education, Peace and Justice, and Partnerships

With a main aim to increase the role of Syrian youth in peace building processes, the Syrian Youth Assembly (SYA) galvanized youth support and innovative ideas to seek ways to prevent violence and consolidate peace in the conflict-afflicted Syria through a myriad of training activities.

Guided by SDG 16 and UN Security Council resolution 2250 on “Youth, Peace and Security”, SYA has established a partnership with the UN Youth Assembly, where Syrian youth were able to voice their concerns, aspirations and recommendations in the context of the resolution, and demanded youth engagement in Syrian peace talks.

The youth-led NGO succeeded in providing opportunities to young Syrians to participate in international conferences, events and awareness-raising campaigns, thus providing them with a platform for dialogue and knowledge-sharing.

As part of achieving SDG 4 and 17, the SYA partnered with UNHCR, other UN initiatives, and the Coursera Platform to achieve its overarching educational and humanitarian objectives, which helped over 2,500 Syrian students, including Syrian refugees, gain scientific knowledge and life skills.

From UNIC Beirut


Goal 4 | Education

The youth-led DELTA Association empowers and mobilizes young volunteers to act as ‘ambassadors’ to other youngsters in their communities by sharing knowledge and life skills on how to adapt healthy daily habits, avoid drug use and other dangerous practices. As part of its three-year health prevention program for youth “Together Towards a Drug-Free Healthy Sporting Culture”, DELTA succeeded in attracting more than 45 males and females from different Lebanese regions to raise youth awareness in local communities on drug use, who in return succeeded to raise awareness of over 1,500 young persons in different regions in Lebanon. In a three-month period, DELTA provided the 45 volunteers with over 60 hours training on life and job skills, and they in turn completed more than 60 community service hours that covered interactive sessions, sports, arts, and spontaneous interactive theater sessions with youth.

Also, under this programme DELTA increased their knowledge on human rights, gender equality, non-violence and cultural diversity.

Similarly, BASSMA, a Lebanese youth-led nonprofit organization that empowers the most underprivileged and deprived communities in Lebanon, was able in 2018 to offer 25,000 hot meals and deliver 4,800 food & hygiene packs to poor families. More than 20,000 kids participated in outings and other recreational activities across Lebanon, while 5,000 medical and dental interventions were provided to poor people. Young people working and volunteering with Bassma succeeded to renovate 80 family houses in poor areas and offer 100 tutoring sessions per month to young students in a form of peer-to-peer education. One of its major successes towards achieving SDG4 was the opening of a “Night School” that provideed full academic and moral support to young students struggling at school to help them overcome the negative influence and impacts of their difficult socio-economic situation. In 2017, 90% of young students who attended BASSMA’s ‘Night School’ courses were reportedly successful in completing their school year. Also working on providing psychological support, Bassma ensured more than 2,400 mental health sessions to individuals in need.

From UNIC Beirut