Did you know that nearly 45 percent of all youth globally, aged 15-24, are living on less than 2 dollars a day? This equates to almost 515 million young people. The situation is especially profound for youth in developing countries, particularly for those living in rural areas. Among these youth some groups are even more likely to be poor, such as young women, youth with disabilities, youth living in countries with armed conflict, youth living as refugees or indigenous youth.
It is important to recognize that poverty does not only include monetary aspects. It is a multidimensional concept. Poverty also includes a lack of access to material resources, such as land and capital. It can also be measured by a lack of basic social services, inadequate security and limited possibilities for participation in decision-making processes. Young people are particularly vulnerable to these various dimensions of poverty, since youth marks the transition from childhood dependency to independent adulthood. Without guidance and access to these resources, young people can face serious obstacles to accessing the institutions, markets, employment opportunities and public services that will enable their successful transition into becoming an independent adult.
Poverty is not a static experience. Depending on a person's social, economic and environmental situation, the circumstances of poverty are constantly shifting. These shifting circumstances are especially applicable to young people's lives. The global youth employment situation is a telling example of this vulnerability that young people world-wide are facing. Young people are often the last hired and the first fired. They often work with short-term contracts and can have difficulties in securing start up funding for new businesses. They are also more than twice as likely then adults to be unemployed.
Even though poverty is a great challenge for young people today, there is strong evidence that young people are now more than ever determined to improve their situation, and that of their communities. Today, young people are becoming active agents through individual as well as group action. As an example, young people are taking the lead in the development of social media and other Internet resources. They are using these media to participate in major discussions on global issues and to build social networks- connecting with other young people both within and outside their own communities. They are also using these media to access information to improve their education, to find jobs, and to seek out other opportunities for skill development. While 71% of the population in developed countries are online today, only 21% have access to the Internet in developing countries. However, the trends are improving and every year more and more young people are gaining access to Internet.
Through our Facebook consultation we asked young people why their inclusion is important in order tackle the challenges of poverty. In their view, poverty is something that affects everyone, of all ages, in all parts of the world. Therefore, youth also have responsibility to tackle the problems. Many of them felt that since youth often are among the most vulnerable to poverty, it is no surprise that many have experienced and dealt with its effects in various aspects of their lives. This first hand knowledge, together with young people's passion, innovation and creativity is believed to be crucial in the development and implementation of effective and successful poverty reduction strategies.
Young people are already proving themselves a major resource for development and for tackling poverty. Lovely Alcime is no exception. Lovely lives in the city of Cap Haitian with her aunt and 13 cousins. Like many Haitian youth who witnessed the devastating earth quake on 12 January 2010, Lovely felt the urge to rebuild her country through community empowerment.
Just 22 years old, Lovely works with over a thousand youth and adults in her community, empowering them to make a difference in their lives and those of others. She teaches people how to overcome their fears, stress and trauma, replacing their feeling of victim-hood with one of empowerment. She instils a sense of self-reliance and responsibility in her students, teaching them how to grow their own food using the resources they have around them, by composting, saving seeds, and planting in old tires and rice sacks. Lovely leads a peer-led Sexuality Education workshop about the causes and consequences of their sexual choices. She focuses not only on the physical aspects of sexuality, but on the emotional and social aspects as well. She also mobilized her students to volunteer as mentors for around 75 street children. While she works with all age groups, Lovely prefers working with youth. "Every time I teach, it's an opportunity to strengthen youth."
Lovely's engagement in empowering her community has not always been the case. At the age of 13, Lovely was diagnosed with a chronic heart condition consisting of a hole in her heart which left her restricted in how much activity and excitement she could take on. She spent much of her childhood isolated, feeling different from other children, and hiding herself in her studies. Then, at the age of 19, she took a youth leadership training programme through Nouvelle Vie, a programme of the International Association for Human Values, which shifted her entire perspective of herself and her role in the world. Through this programme, she experienced how breathing and meditation freed her mind from her doubts and limitations, and inspired her sense of responsibility to transform her community. After 3 weeks of training, she went home, wanting to immediately put into practice all she had learned. Lovely has since grown into the model of wisdom and community responsibility that we see today, sharing her knowledge and experience with those around her. She has continued to develop herself and is currently being trained to teach a youth leadership programme. The more she shares, the more she sees that there are no more problems around her - only solutions that are waiting for her to discover.
If you want to find out more about what young people are doing to ensure successful progress of the MDGs go to our facebook page (www.facebook.com/UNyouthyear). Through the facebook page you can also participate in this month's consultation "Why do you think young people's inclusion are important in tackling poverty?" You may come across ideas for initiatives that could make a difference in your city, or find a forum that might help you to develop new skills.
To find more activities taking place throughout the Year and to get inspiration on what you can do in your community, please visit our calendar of events at: http://social.un.org/youthyear.
Source: Vol. 8, No. 2, February 2011
Tthe UN Youth Flash, a service of the United Nations Programme on Youth to keep you informed about the work of the UN on youth issues. You are encouraged to use and forward the information below to other networks. This update is prepared with input from UN offices, agencies, funds and programmes as well as with contributions from youth organizations around the world. UN Youth Flash can also be read on-line at: www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/flash.htm.