The voices of children are essential in crafting the post-2015 development agenda, so that their needs are recognised and included in new development goals. That's why one of SOS Children's key recommendations to the international community is to "ensure the participation of children and young people who lack or are at risk of losing parental care".
You can read a summary of our recommendations for the post-2015 agenda here, which we presented at the 69th session of the general assembly of the United Nations. The report emphasises why and how children without parental care must be integrated into the post-2015 framework.
Too often, this young group is marginalised and neglected when global goals are drawn up. This is partly due to a lack of consultative processes that could gather their input, and partly due to their low self-esteem - common among this vulnerable group. Yet if future development goals are to succeed, their voices must be heard. Their participation will help to illuminate the challenges they face, and help to create sustainable and effective policies that support their needs and realities.
Across the world, SOS Children is making sure that young people are consulted and listened to as the post-2015 agenda is discussed and decided. Here we bring you three examples of their participation, in Sri Lanka, New York and Uruguay. Their ideas and insights are fascinating, and their commitment to sparking change is inspiring.
Young people raise their voices at world conference
"As a young citizen, I want my voice to be heard in representation of those who cannot be heard. There are so many problems that the youth face today in the world, especially youth in alternative care, and they may not be brought to the light if I do not participate,"
said Dharshika when she attended the The World Conference on Youth in Sri Lanka, in May 2014. Dharshika grew up in an SOS Children's Village in Sri Lanka, and wanted to take part in the conference so she could bring attention to the challenges faced by children growing up in alternative care.
1,500 participants from around the world - half of whom were young people - attended the conference and discussed their priorities for future development goals. Their contributions have been collected in the Colombo Declaration on Youth, which will feed into the post-2015 agenda.
Hope for a better future
Eristjana, who grew up in an SOS Children's Village in Estonia, also went to the world conference. She realised how important it was to advocate on a global platform for the rights of orphaned and abandoned children:
"I tried as much as I could to share the issues that matter for children and youth without parental care: the discrimination they face in society as a marginalised group, and the lack of access to services and opportunities. By talking with some other youth delegates, I realised that there was no one else, no other organisation representing this marginalised group.
I experienced difficulties in making the issues of people from alternative care heard. This was a big lesson for me: challenges and barriers exist, but we need to be strong and find out ways to overcome them."
Dharshika also left the conference full of determination, and committed to speaking up about future development goals:
"A statement made by the UN Youth Representative of Sri Lanka impressed me a lot. She said that the youth are not the leaders of tomorrow, but they are the leaders of today. I think it is important to have youth participation at all levels and all areas. We should do something today in order to build a better future for the generations to come."
SOS Ambassadors attend United Nations
"Everybody has a different view, but we all need to talk," said Nadine Dalpra (20) at the United Nations in June 2014. Together with Ravi Bajracharya (17), Nadine attended the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum in June 2014. The theme of the gathering was #Youth2015: Realising the Future They Want.
Nadine spent four year at an SOS Youth Home in East Tyrol, Austria, after losing the care of her parents. Ravi has lived in SOS Children's Village Sanothimi in Nepal since 2007. Though they live 8000 kilometres apart, Nadine and Ravi share an understanding of the unique difficulties encountered by children who grow up in alternative care.
Speaking from her personal experience, Nadine explained how daunting it was to stop receiving financial, social and emotional support once she reached 18 years old:
“At 18, you are officially an adult, but that does not mean that you can cope alone already and are fully ready for life. Most students rely on parental support from age 18 to 24. We need to expand youth support for children without parental care beyond age 18!”.
Nadine also called for more opportunities for young people to participate in schools, business sectors and the government. In Ravi's speech, he focused on youth unemployment, and the need to invest locally to create jobs:
"[Too often] young people have to leave their countries to seek employment. We need investment in job opportunities for our youth, so Nepali youth are not forced to migrate for jobs".
Children in Uruguay share their hopes for a better world
More views were shared in Uruguay, where children and young people in alternative care were asked what their priorities are, and what advice they have for world leaders. Their answers were intelligent, inspiring and ambitious, and touched upon the importance of having a loving family, education, healthcare and job opportunities. One teenage boy talked about how education is vital to children' succeeding:
“To build a house or a wall, you have to first put up the beams. You have to start from the bottom. That’s like the education children have at home and then at school - and when the foundations are solid you can start to build up and up."
Other young people spoke of the need for greater equality (“I would like to say to the president: give poor people a happy life”), safe communities and less violence (“a world where you can live without any worries. So, to go out and play is not a problem but something fun"), and a platform to raise their voices ("the freedom to say what we think").
Watch the video below to hear children of Uruguay express what kind of world they wish to live in.
Young people's voices are not only important for informing the direction of development goals, but also for igniting and inspiring action. Their hope and ambition is a mobilising force, and vital for ensuring no child is left behind in the post-2015 agenda.
“We’re on the right track, because the first step to sort out the bad things is to do something. And now we’re doing something,” said one boy from Uruguay. Another concluded, “It’s going to be difficult, but everything’s possible - right?”
As the world draws up new development goals for 2015 and beyond, discover how we are advocating for all children to have the same opportunities to grow with dignity, security and respect.