Half of all people in the world today are 30 or younger, and this is expected to reach 57 percent by the end of 2030. Children and young people have unique experiences and face unique issues, challenges and opportunities to their development and well-being – ones that can only be best addressed by including their voices in decision making.
More and more, we see an encouraging inclusion of these young voices in evidence-building, policymaking and advocacy efforts, making sure that change is informed by what children really need.
On International Youth Day 2023, End Violence is spotlighting young voices participating in solutions and calling for the change that they need for better lives and better futures.
Here are ways that children’s views are being incorporated to address some of the most critical issues they face around the world today – from facing violence online and in schools to challenges around conflict and climate change:
Disrupting Harm in the online world
End Violence is bringing the voices of young people into generating evidence and policies to tackle violence. Around 13,000 children and youth were interviewed as part of the Disrupting Harm research across 13 countries, sharing their online experiences to inform key data insights for preventing and responding to online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Ending violence in and through schools
The Safe to Learn initiative joined hands with young people from around the world to co-produce a short film, ‘Don’t Fail Us’, where they share their experiences of violence in and around school – whether bullying, discrimination, gender-based violence, or lack of a safe school environment. Through powerful and courageous testimonies, children are demanding action from world leaders to end violence and transform education systems.
Children, who have done the least to contribute to climate change, will bear the brunt of the consequences. They have been mobilising to demand action at the highest levels so that they can have safer and more sustainable futures. The UN Secretary-General is now advised by a special Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, the second cohort of which was announced in March this year. The Group will support the United Nations’ work in raising ambition and accelerating global action to tackle the climate crisis.
Children on the move
A record 103 million people were forcibly displaced by mid-2022 and children account for 41 per cent, or 42 million. North Africa, for example, witnesses the continent’s largest number of migrants, where women and girls make up 43% of the total. As part of a new study, Save the Children spoke to young girls aged 9-24 about their experiences of migration in the region, revealing that one in three girl migrants interviewed experienced or witnessed sexual abuse or other forms of gender-based violence while fleeing their home countries to find safety.
Lack of documentation is a major factor costing displaced children their well-being and development. Save the Children and the Greek Council of Refugees have spoken to children and young people about the challenges confronting unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Greece. They found that children without papers face difficulties in accessing basic rights and needs such as education, health care and protection from violence - with many being exposed to forced child labour, sexual exploitation and physical and psychological abuse.
Living through the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected lives around the world, and young people faced their own unique challenges and journeys as they navigated the lockdowns. UNICEF Innocenti has undertaken a multi-country research project that explores children and young people’s experiences and reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic and related government responses. Children from countries across regions – Europe, Asia, South and North America – shared their points of view to inform critical evidence on the effects of the pandemic on various aspects of their lives – they reported feeling “anxious, agitated, lonely, hurt, sad, and not at ease” for various reasons, from isolation and lack of basic needs for some to fear of the future for many.
Consequences of conflict
By February 2022, around 7.7 million refugees had fled Ukraine to seek safety in other European countries. An estimated 40 percent of these are children. Save the Children spoke to children and caregivers in eight countries, asking children who have fled conflict about the challenges they face adjusting to their new environments in new countries where they often arrive without basic necessities. The report revealed high levels of anxiety and unhappiness and a concerningly high proportion of children not planning to enroll in or attend school.
As End Violence celebrates International Youth Day with partners across the world, we mark an important moment to recognise the importance of young people’s voices, actions and ideas – not only giving them a space to speak, but also listening to what they say and acting on it. On this day and beyond, the end violence community must continue to provide space for inclusive youth engagement.
Image: © UNICEF/UN0302772/Pawelczyk