Nepal | June 02, 2020

Power of young people: Maximizing their contributions

Giulia Vallese
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cartoonaug1215In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake most of us have witnessed first-hand how young people have been involved in the relief efforts and how they continue to be involved in the rehabilitation and recovery of the country. Janak BK, a young person associated with a Sindhuli-based youth network visited around 30 villages, met around 700 earthquake survivors and supported them in whatever way he could within three months since the devastating earthquake. He did so out of his own free will, with a deep sense of responsibility towards the local communities in his home district. I was impressed when he told a team from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, that although they have less social power than political leaders and are not full-time social workers, young people have an important role to play in emergencies.

Already organized and effective, young people were quick to respond when the quake struck. Youth in several districts have been involved in clearing rubble, mobilizing their networks to support relief efforts and in providing emotional support. It was encouraging to see how determined they were in creating awareness on the special needs of women and girls, preventing and responding to gender-based violence and adapting and responding to different needs. Young people have supported UNFPA’s quake response through active participation in the organization of mobile reproductive health camps serving remote communities, as well as in the distribution of dignity kits, which contain essential hygiene materials and clothes.

The significant contributions of young people and the spontaneous way in which they have responded right after the earthquake have not remained hidden.

The next 15 years offer a unique opportunity for a demographic dividend that will accelerate sustainable economic growth and development in many countries if we empower, support, educate and create employment for young people today

In order to pay tribute to a new kind of heroes that emerged amid the catastrophe — young humanitarian responders and all youths who have the power to change the world —UNFPA joins today other partners in commemorating International Youth Day, under the theme, “Youth Civic Engagement,” by celebrating the actions young people in Nepal can take to improve their well-being and that of their communities. UNFPA has long supported youth networks to become involved in local planning, and to promote health and human rights messages in their communities. Members of these networks are reaching out to peers and neighbors with information about ending gender-based violence and child marriage, for example, and on how to receive information and reproductive health services. In 65 countries, more than half the population is younger than 24. Nepal is one of them, with close to 55% below 24 years of age (2011 Census).Nations that take advantage of such human capital can be propelled towards development.

Young people are driving changes towards a better future for all in every corner of the world. They are leading global action on climate change, campaigning to end discrimination, speaking out to uphold democracy and the freedom of speech, connecting our world with innovations in information technology, and building peace in societies ravaged by war. They have a right to meaningfully participate in decision-making processes. The next 15 years offer a unique opportunity for a demographic dividend that will accelerate sustainable economic growth and development in many countries if we empower, support, educate and create employment for young people today.

Young women and men need protection from violence, and they have a right to access essential education and health services, including for their sexual and reproductive health. They also have the right to be at the tables where important decisions are made. Yet, for the most part, young people remain excluded from decision-making processes. Although 16 per cent of the world’s population is 20-29 years old, this age group represents only 1.6 per cent of parliamentarians, most of whom are men. Young people rarely join political parties, and the majority do not vote in elections. It is misleading, however, to conclude that young people are uninterested or simply do not care. Today’s young people are better educated and volunteer more for causes than previous generations.

In September, world leaders will formally adopt Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a historic, transformative, inclusive, universal agenda for our people and the planet. To have any chance of succeeding in building a better future for humanity, we must remove the obstacles confronted by young people and invest in their health, well-being, education and livelihoods to unleash and leverage their full potential as global citizens.

UNFPA will continue engaging with networks of adolescents and youth to mobilize support for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. Together, we can ensure that the post-2015 development agenda promotes the human rights, health and well-being of the largest generation of young people in history. Together, working in partnership with young people, we can enable them to survive, thrive and transform our world, and deliver a better future for all of us. We need their fullest capability and broadest engagement for people, the planet and prosperity to flourish.

Ms. Giulia is UNFPA Representative for Nepal

A version of this article appears in print on August 12, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.

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