You are here

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa—More than 30 young leaders from across the African continent shared the work they are doing in their communities and countries in line with this year's International Youth Day theme, "Youth Engagement for Global Action".

International Youth Day is an awareness day designated by the United Nations. The purpose of the day is to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding youth. The first IYD was observed on 12 August 2000.

The youth leaders, between 20 and 34 years old, represented 14 African countries -Angola, Burundi, Egypt, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They expressed what makes them youth leaders and how they are changing the lives of other young people in their communities and countries, mainly through Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights advocacy initiatives. This was initiated by UNFPA East and Southern Africa's flagship youth programme, the Safeguard Young People (SYP) programme.

Recognizing the youth as frontline responders

"As the world seeks to build back better, we must ensure that young people are prioritized in order to have access to the education, tools, and services necessary for them to reach their full potential."

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, in her statement on International Youth Day, acknowledged how young people are taking action to solve problems in their communities in the midst of a global pandemic. "Young people have been frontline responders to the COVID-19 pandemic, mobilizing across the world," she said.

Dr. Kanem added that young people are health workers, activists, innovators, and social and community workers. She said that to reach and engage young people during this pandemic, we must share information, clarify misinformation, and must equip them to take action to contain the spread of the virus. We must validate the leadership of young people and uphold their human rights.

Dr. Kanem stated that UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, listens to the voices of young people and supports their meaningful participation in decisions that affect them.

"I believe good laws and policies are tools to end violence and discrimination against young people." - Sharon Migariza from Kenya.

About the Safeguard Young People Programme

Since 2013, SYP has been empowering adolescents and young people aged 10 to 24 years (with a special focus on adolescent girls) to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, early and unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, early marriage, gender-based violence and harmful cultural practices, while promoting gender-equitable norms. The programme has been implemented in eight Southern African countries - Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. SYP is funded by the generous support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

- Lindiwe Siyaya

Gallery: A snapshot of the work done by Young Leaders in Africa