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Today’s adolescents and youth are 1.8 billion strong. The world is home to the largest generation of young people in its history.   

Yet, in many parts of the world, youth are too often denied the opportunity to realize their full potential. 69 million adolescents remain out of school, 75 million youth are unemployed and 500 million young people live on less than $2 a day.

These are big problems to tackle, especially as a young person. It’s no surprise that young people, including myself, can easily feel disengaged from political decision-making that directly affects them -- and even feel powerless to bring about social change.

Even so, it only takes a moment to see that youth groups around the world are doing amazing work in their communities. Through music, art, activism and community events, young people are acting as strong agents of social change and justice. They are building the foundation of the world’s future.


Launched by a group of young South Africans in February 2013, InkuluFreeHeidhas since united the young people of South Africa in a movement to fight for their rights and participate in political decision-making.

The organization has brought together over 80 youth-led groups to work together towards strengthening youth civic engagement. They have also mobilized action to become involved in the future of South Africa’s National Development Plan

Their most recent campaign Our Vote Our Voice, entirely crowd-sourced and volunteer-based, got young people critically engaged in the 2014 National General Election held this May. Youth spoke out about issues like education, unemployment and corruption. Using the slogan “Democracy starts with an X,” youth all over the country encouraged other young people to become informed about government affairs, vote in the election and have a say in their future.

The organization has provided a space for all young people to have their voice heard loud and clear by policy makers and the country at large.


In Brazil, adolescents are using music to challenge some of their country’s biggest social issues: poverty, racism, drug trafficking and police violence. The group AfroReggaecombats violence by empowering children from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (shantytowns) through music and dance workshops.

5.5 million people live in favelas in Rio de Janeiro, making Brazil a country with one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor. In 1980, armed drug mafias took over the favelas. Since then, traffickers have recruited young boys and girls from the favelas into the drug trade -- children who are vulnerable, live in poverty and feel disconnected from mainstream society.

Afro Reggae uses cultural expression to steer youths away from the drug trade and give them a voice. The group offers classes in flamenco, ballroom, theater, graphite and music. They also host musical performances that combine percussion, dance, rap and acrobatics.

In 2005, the documentary Favela Risingshowed the organization’s work and communicated the reality of the favelas to a global audience. Having started as a group of young people wanting to empower other youth in their community, they have grown to become nationally and internationally recognized for their powerful music and dance. Their artistic performances combat stereotypes and forge a sense of identity between youth living in the favelas and beyond.

Youth Advocacy Movement

In Latin America and the Caribbean, young people face many barriers to accessing comprehensive sex education and youth-friendly services. The Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) is an important voice in the region. Adolescent YAMs--members of the movement--use advocacy and peer education to improve the quality of youth sexual reproductive health (SRH) and urge governments to increase family planning services.

YAMs conduct different youth activities to create a discussion around family planning. They write a regional newspaper, organize youth camps and have a pen pal network. YAMs work in schools and in their local communities -- hosting live radio broadcasts, writing press releases and creating support groups.

YAMs empower other young people to take control over their health, talk about their needs and advocate for their rights.


Young people must be in the picture of our future world. Join the youth all around the world who are already advocating for their rights to shape your future too!

Sign the petition calling on Member States to ensure that the human rights of all children, adolescents and youth are protected and fulfilled.