Last Friday we marked International Youth Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the power and potential of youth around the world. But it was also a day to reflect on the many challenges and obstacles young people today face in trying to fully reach their potential.
When we spoke with Klaus Rudischhauser, Deputy Director-General of DevCo, about the work the EU is doing to address youth unemployment around the world, he highlighted some of these challenges. As well as drawing attention to the difficulties posed by underemployment and precarious working conditions, he stressed the need to provide opportunities for young people to develop the right skills for the market place and the importance of good educational and vocational training.
Youth economic empowerment is an area where Plan International strives to have a big impact and we fully agree with Mr. Rudischhauser on the importance of education and training. Education remains the greatest way out of poverty and by equipping young people with the knowledge and skills they will need for the workplace, we can invest in a more sustainable future for everyone.
However, economic security and independence is not the only criteria for an empowered youth that will drive powerful change for entire communities and countries; political empowerment must also be addressed. Young people need to be able to speak up and participate in making decisions which will have an impact on them. In Timor-Leste, Plan International is supported by the European Commission to provide young people, especially girls, with training covering social analysis, leadership, debating and public speaking skills. Through this project young people have been empowered to speak out on issues that affect their daily lives such as domestic violence and gender equality, and their voices have finally been heard by their local government.
Encouraging girls and young women to speak out on issues that affect their lives has also been the ongoing motivation beyond our Girls’ Voices initiative, as part of Plan International’s Because I am a Girl global movement. Girls have the right to have their voices heard and to participate in the decisions and discussions which affect them.
So while we celebrate the power of young people, we must not forget to stand by them and work to bring down the obstacles standing in the way of their empowerment. Only then will we all be able to benefit from the many beneficial outcomes of an empowered youth.