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One in four people worldwide are between the ages of 15 to 25. This means the youth makes up of 1.8 billion of the world’s population. To end violence and harmful practices against the youth, a campaign called #showyourselfie was launched by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Global Citizen. The campaign that was launched last year on December 10 also aimed at getting pressing youth issues under the spotlight to be better represented in the Post-2015 development agenda. Capital spoke to Matti Navelou, Global Campaign Manager regarding the progress and the expected outcomes of #showyourselfie
Capital: Tell us about the #showyourselfie campaign and how it was initiated.
Matti Navelou: The next two years are crucial for international development. Key international processes will define the structure and substance of the future development roadmap, impacting young people for the next generation. This roadmap, called the Post-2015 Development Agenda, will address some of the most critical and urgent issues of our time: climate change, health, gender equality and human rights.
In each of these areas, young people stand to gain and lose the most. Yet, they are the least considered. Adolescents and youth are often overlooked and invisible in policymaking, budget allocation, and lawmaking.
There is a real concern that there won’t be a strong enough investment in the rights and needs of adolescents and young people in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
However, they can be the key drivers of this agenda-and are critical actors in its sustainability and success.
That’s why Global Citizen and the United Nations Population Fund launched a major global campaign called #showyourselfie on International Youth Day, August 12, 2014. The campaign aims to ensure that the Post-2015 Development Agenda can enable every adolescent and youth – especially girls to have the knowledge, skills, and opportunities for a healthy, productive life and enjoyment of all human rights. Without the support of millions worldwide, there is a huge risk that decision makers won’t invest in young people.
#Showyourselfie is a petition with a difference. Every selfie is a personal signature, demonstrating both the need and demand to invest in young people. #Showyourselfie is our way to bring young people, civil society, the private sector and governments together, amplify their voices and empower them to ensure the rights of adolescents and youth are heard and included in the framework of our future, and in national policies moving forward.
Our aim is to ensure that the new development agenda equips young people with the right to: education, at least to secondary level, employment skills and opportunities, comprehensive sexuality education, quality healthcare, including access to contraceptive services and information, protection from violence and harmful practices and participation in decision making.
#Showyourselfie serves as a unified, collective platform for youth rights. And adding your selfie signature of support is very simple. Individuals can either upload their photo on our website or on Twitter or Instagram using #showyourselfie so their photo visual signature will be captured and added to our visual petition.
Capital: Do you think that youth issues have not been well represented in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
Navelou: While the rights and needs of youth and adolescents were represented in the MDGs across various goals that affect them such as eradicating poverty and extreme hunger (MDG 1), achieving universal primary education (MDG 2), promoting gender equality (MDG 3), combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases (MDG 6) among others prioritizing their needs and rights was not streamlined enough.
There is still much work to be done. More adolescents and youth need to be enrolled in secondary schools to further their career prospects and comprehensive sexuality education needs to become the norm in schools. With more girls dropping out of school than boys, 31 million a year, achieving gender equality is of paramount importance.
While gender equality has been well represented in the MDGs, one crucial issue that has not been included is sexual and reproductive health and rights for young people. Youth need comprehensive sexuality education, access to contraception and quality healthcare to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy, STIs/STDs and HIV/AIDS. 40 percent of new HIV infections across the world occur among today’s youth.
Youth issues have not been thoroughly represented in the MDGs, but we have an immense opportunity to incorporate youth rights and needs as crosscutting indicators in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), building on existing progress from civil society and the public in driving forward this agenda.
Capital: What are recognized to be some of the most pressing challenges that the youth are facing worldwide and particularly in Africa?
Navelou: There are several challenges; Education, at least to secondary level: World leaders have already committed to getting children to primary school with much success. 90% of children in the developing world are enrolled in primary school. Yet, adolescents, especially girls, continue to drop out of school at alarming rates. Those who stay in school may not receive good quality education.
Girls who don’t attend secondary school are twice as likely to marry young as girls who do attend secondary school. Young people without secondary education are limited not only in their job opportunities, but in their ability to understand and protect their health and rights.
Employment skills and opportunities: As many as 60% of young people in developing regions are either without work, not studying, or engaged in irregular employment. These figures don’t even include the number of young women who don’t enter the workforce. Far too many young people don’t have the opportunity to gain an education that leads to work. By starting off their careers this way, these youth are set up for a lifetime of financial insecurity.
Comprehensive sexuality education is essential to ensuring safe sexual practices across the world, yet it is still a controversial issue in many parts of the world. Some fear that educating young people about safe sex encourages them to engage in sexual activity, but studies have shown this to be untrue. Many comprehensive sexual education programs have found that participants actually had fewer sexual partners, later sexual debuts, and increased contraceptive use after being educated. Importantly, education is the key to containing the rapid spread of HIV/AIDs and other STIs.
Quality healthcare, including access to contraception: Without access to contraception, young people don’t have the tools to control their fertility and their lives. In many nations, young women who become pregnant, in or out of wedlock, are forced to leave school and stay at home rather than pursue careers.
Furthermore, many girls aren’t physically ready to give birth, meaning pregnancy can be fatal for these young mothers. However, giving young women family planning tools would reduce maternal mortality by a third.
Protection from violence and harmful practices: Safety is a basic human right taken for granted in much of the developed world, but it remains a struggle for many young people. Sexual assault is a constant concern for many young women as they go about daily activities including walking to school or going to the bathroom.
The risk of violence is even greater for young people in crisis affected areas. Furthermore, many adolescents, especially girls, face harmful rituals such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. This needs to change. All young men and women need to be safe in order to live healthy, productive lives.
Participation in decision making: Youth account for a quarter of the entire population, yet youth are not well represented in the issues that affect them. Instead, lawmakers decide on such issues with little or no input from young people. This isn’t just a developing world issue, as many young people avoid politics and government across the developed world. We need to change this. Youth need to partake in decisions that affect them by voting, participating in civic events, remaining aware of the issues that affect them, and sometimes even by taking a selfie.
Capital: Why do you think there has been such a slow movement in taking steps to empower the youth and make them part of the development process in developing countries?
Navelou: While youth account for one quarter of the entire world population, many young people avoid politics and civic participation in both developed and developing countries due to lack of information and resources.
This is the number one issue that prevents youth from engaging in the development process. Many young people find it difficult to navigate the often complicated processes of local and national governments which can discourage them from trying to participate. In turn, there is also reluctance from governments to consult with youth on issues that affect them the most such as sexual and reproductive health and rights and protection from violence. While there may be opportunities for youth in developed nations to obtain financial and political resources, the opportunities in developing nations are more stringent.
But, when youth are given the tools and resources to empower themselves and their communities, we see increased involvement in the development process, especially when participation can be incorporated into daily routines, or become a part of existing community groups and activities such as faith and music.
This is why the #showyourselfie campaign directly targets youth in a way that makes advocacy not only accessible and convenient, but also fun by reaching young people in a behavioral process they are already active participants in.
Capital: What exactly do you expect the outcome of this campaign to be and do you think it will be successful?
Navelou: Over the next several months, we will be working closely with our partners to bring this campaign to every corner of the world and build an unstoppable community of people who are ready to “show their selfies” in support of youth rights and needs. We will collect all these selfies and present them to UN Member States from 193 countries when they gather to discuss the Post-2015 Development Agenda at the United Nations in September 2015.
Our aim is to create the largest ever visual petition made up of millions of photos (or‘selfies’) to demonstrate global support for youth rights and needs and to ensure governments invest adequately in young people by garnering millions of selfies in support of strong investments in youth and adolescents in the Post-2015.
Development Agenda, we will create the public demand needed to hold Member States accountable for prioritizing youth rights in the final framework they announce in September which will provide the roadmap for development progress over the next 15 years.
Capital: How many youth have participated in the campaign and which region has the biggest participant so far?
Navelou: To date, over 12,000 youth worldwide have submitted their selfies as a visual petition in support of the campaign with significant participation in Uganda, India, Nigeria, the US, UK and Latin Americag