Engaging youth for change
By Madeleine Askham, Child Rights Policy Officer, World Vision UK
This weekend, instead of spending my Saturday relaxing on the sofa in front of repeats, or meeting up with friends for dinner and drinks, I’m going to be spending my Saturday in a sweaty building in Whitehall with over 100 young adults. Our government’s Department for International Development is running a summit focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals this weekend for young people who have returned from volunteering overseas. And I’ve volunteered to run one of their workshops, to highlight the inequalities faced by young people around the world.
It’ll be interesting running this workshop here in the UK; normally it’s something we run in our child empowerment projects in countries like Nepal or Somalia. Young people take part in an exercise where they get certain profiles and start equally on a horizontal line. Then through a series of questions they find themselves either progressing and moving forward, or not moving at all because there may be barriers blocking their path.
My colleagues and I have seen the impact it has on young people as they realise there are many different barriers that could prevent them from reaching their full potential, things like child marriage, poverty, or having to drop out of school to go to work at an early age. World Vision works with youth and their communities to break down those barriers. When young people acknowledge the challenges that may hold them back, it ignites their drive to overcome them.
At the summit Saturday, we’ll be helping to teach young adults from across the UK about the different inequalities faced by young people around the world. We will also be educating them about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); what they are, why they matter and how young people can use their energy to help achieve them. It’s great to see that our government has recognised the important role young people play in the development of their communities and nations.
At the end of this month, governments and Heads of State from 193 countries will come together at the UN General Assembly to formally adopt the Sustainable Development Goals. These are a new set of 17 goals that every country in the world will be aiming to achieve over the next 15 years. The goals cover a wide range of issues including ending extreme poverty, ensuring safe and quality education for all children, and achieving gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women.
For me, the success of the SDGs will depend on how we engage younger generations. Over the past few years, I’ve seen how the will and determination of young people can transfer into real change on the ground; not just in their own lives but for their community and nation too.
Young people’s energy and commitment to making the world a better place is what’s needed to achieve the things that governments have set out in the SDGs; that we end extreme poverty and inequality, and we end it for good. I’m hoping through our workshop we’ll help explain the importance of the SDGs, and how without them young people around the world will continue to face different forms of inequality that prevent them from reaching their full potential.
The aim is to achieve all 17 goals by 2030. That’s just fifteen years way. We have a lot of work to do and with such a limited timeframe; we need all the help we can get and need to engage all members of society. It’s critical that we engage young people as the change-makers they are and as future leaders of this world. Without them, we cannot guarantee that the advances made within the next 15 years will lead to a lasting change.
Madeleine Askham will be tweeting from World Vision’s workshop on Saturday. For updates, please follow @maddyaskham. You can find out more about the SDGs and Action/2015 here.