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'Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.' - Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The United Nations defines youth as people between the ages of 15 and 24 years, but flexibly defining, 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 to 24 amounts to youths in the world, recording the highest rate of youths ever. It is overly surprising that about half of the 1.8 billion youths survive on less than $2 per day, with many striving to survive in precarious conditions and extreme poverty has led to various domestic violence and social vices in most societies.

First observed on 12 August 2000, the International Youth Day (IYD) was designated by the UN General Assembly in 1999. It is an annual celebration to acknowledge the role of youths across the globe toward societal and national transformation. The day is also used to sensitize and raise awareness about problems or challenges facing youths in the world.

This year’s theme for commemorating the IYD is “Safe Space for Youths.” Youths are the backbone of every economy, as far as socio-economic and political transformations are concerned. Political instability, labor market inconsistencies and limited or unsafe space for political and civic involvement have led to increasing isolation of youth towards societal and national reconstruction and also development.

 “Safe Spaces for Youth”

In other to increase youth participation in social, economic and political activities, there should be an atmosphere free from restriction and marginalization, unearthing the outmost talents, innovative ideas, and strategic activities that could bring about positive change. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically Goal 11, emphasizes the need for the provision of safe space towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization. Youths need safe spaces where they can come together and elicit ideas and brainstorm strategic ways to change their societies, engage in activities to address their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision-making processes, and freely express themselves on social and political issues. While there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the confidence, dignity, and safety of youth especially those who are vulnerable and exposed to marginalization.

People’s Initiative Foundation has over the years created an enabling platform through its initiatives such as Africa Internship Academy and Africa Dialogues to engage youths across Africa in the quest for empowerment and transformation. This environment has produced enthusiastic youths, having been empowered by the Foundation to be agents of positive change.

The Africa Internship Academy (AIA) is a youth employment accelerator in Ghana and a self-sustaining social enterprise which trains higher education students and graduates to gain entrepreneurial and employable skills. AIA as a safe space has unearthed and developed values, talents, skills, and knowledge of youths across Africa. It welcomes and trains every youth irrespective of their social backgrounds. Youths, therefore, come together, work in teams, learn from each other, share the challenges they face in their various societies, and make undying efforts to solve those problems through their own social enterprises. They are therefore equipped with problem-solving skills alongside analytical skills for general development.

Africa Dialogues is Africa’s foremost platform for the exchange of cutting-edge ideas and inspiring stories. Africa Dialogues strive to be a springboard that enables the launch of ideas, ultimately resulting in creative action. Acting as an accelerator for ideas and people, the Africa Dialogues Conference bring together people, through different impact-driven programs, engaging events and annual conferences, to help turn various ideas to reality.

The platform is a safe space for all youths, irrespective of their cultural background to lay down the challenges they are facing and suggest possible ways to address them. This platform provides a means for governments and stakeholders to have ideas hitherto unknown to help solve some pressing issues of national concern to effect real change in Africa.

Read about Safe Spaces for Youth and International Youth Day, also read 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY)


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