The sun is setting, and I have just flown into Bonn, Germany, with Peace Sekamwese, a 16-year-old child journalist from Burundi. It’s Peace’s first time outside of East Africa – and she is over the moon. She’s here to participate in the WorldWeWant.de consultations, alongside an inspiring mix of 19 other young people from the four corners of the world. They’re aged between 15 and 23, they’ve come from as far away as the Philippines, Colombia, Liberia, and India, and they’re here to talk about what it is they want for the post-2015 world – the world that they are about to inherit. As I sit in the gathering, I’m struck by how passionate some of them are: about climate change, about social inclusion and diversity, about “the system.”
WorldWeWant, a global platform created by the United Nations and civil society, is all about amplifying people’s voices as we build the new global agenda for sustainable development. For Peace and many of the other youth here, building that new agenda has to go through education – ensuring all children have access to education, and that that education is given by competent teachers. It’s also about preparing young people for the workplace, so they can contribute to developing their countries.
“Education is the key to solving all issues. If we had better quality education, some youth would create companies after finishing university. Then other youth could benefit from newly created jobs. In this way, the country could become economically developed,” she says.
Quality of education in Peace’s home country Burundi has suffered from overcrowded classrooms, reduced learning time and lack of school materials. Ranked 178th on the Human Development Index, the country is in a situation of generalized poverty. In this situation, education and employment are on the top of many young people’s minds – systematically coming in first among young people’s concerns when we at UNICEF send out polls on social media and U-report here.
For Peace, making sure young people are able to speak up about these concerns is crucial to changing that situation. “Young people’s involvement is in the post-2015 process is important because they are the leaders of today and tomorrow.”
As part of UNICEF Burundi’s child journalist programme, Peace plays her part by hosting a weekly radio show in which she talks about the situation of children in her country. But she feels strongly about getting the word out beyond the borders of Burundi – and social media and international exchanges are key to that.
“I’m so thrilled to be here. Talking to other youth, I realise that despite all of us coming from different countries and different backgrounds, we all dream of the same thing – a world which is better for young people, a world that listens to them.”
The WorldWeWant.de and Friends consultations took place in Bonn, Germany, from 10 – 12 May 2014. Find out more at www.worldwewant.de.
Eliane Luthi is a Communications Specialist at UNICEF Burundi.