The world is currently experiencing a large demographic of young people, and in some parts, like Africa, this presents a phenomenal opportunity to harness the demographic dividend through investing in the youth majority (approximately 60-70% of the total population).

 

Which is why, on International Youth Day, which takes place each August – and on other days like this - it is important for us as young people to make our voices heard, claim the space and ensure that our demands are met.  I call on all youth-led and youth-serving stakeholders to prioritise young people in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our biggest source of power lies in our demographic weight, but it is essential that we collaborate, organise, and align our messaging for effective advocacy and action that is grounded in accountability at the local, national and global level.  While there is no goal specifically on youth, each of the 17 goals affects the lives of young people – making it critical that we are at the centre to deliver on the Sustainable Development agenda.

Though these global advocacy days drive home the need for youth engagement on global issues, this need exists each and every day.  I urge young people around the world to be the change we want to see.  We have the power of technology, social media, for instance, has become an essential tool for advocacy, lobbying and engagement.  We have demographic weight to influence change and transformation in our localities and globally, and we have the power of voice to lobby for political will and hold our leaders accountable to their commitments. 

My organisation, Hope Pillar Project, is working on a project that collects video testimonials from adolescents across Botswana on their views on the current status quo, the goals they feel their leaders should prioritise, and what they commit to doing as responsible citizens to add value towards realising the world we want.  Our aim is to share these videos and bring the voices of the (sometimes voiceless) public to legislators at the national assembly, as well as different decision-makers at local and global levels who normally would not interact with these populations.  This project is indeed the epitome and essence of the ‘leaving no one behind’ SDG theme.  We are not just young people: we are actors, facilitators, implementers and lobbyists for a better world and we have a lot to contribute

Recently, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH) Adolescent and Youth Constituency led the development of an Advocacy Toolkit — Advocating for Change for Adolescents — which is a user-friendly manual to guide youth leaders in conducting in-country advocacy and actions to drive the SDG agenda, and generate citizen-led accountability for human rights commitments in countries.  Our hope is that this toolkit will be useful and inspire young change makers to action.

Experience has taught us that even with little to no resources, you can make an impact and influence policy change and transform lives in our community.  As youth actors, let us not sell ourselves short.  The world may be a mess as we see it, but it is our mess to fix.  Whatever we are unhappy about, we have a responsibility to do something to change that.  You may not change the whole world by giving a few girls sanitary towels so they do not miss classes and preserve their dignity, but you will change the world for those girls and inspire others to do the same. It's our collective efforts that change the world.

The PMNCH Adolescent and Youth Constituency have some exciting opportunities soon to launch that we hope individuals and organizations can benefit from, so do keep up to date… and if your organization is not a member yet, please follow this link http://www.who.int/pmnch/getinvolved/join/en/

VIVA Youth! VIVA Adolescents! VIVA transformation!