Our Voice Matters, youth tell leaders

As negotiators continue to battle for agreement over the outcomes of Rio+20, one group of particularly civil-minded youth from one of the city’s favelas took their concerns directly to their leaders last night (Monday).

Edgleison, 19, one of the group who met with municipal councillor Reimont Santa Barbara to present the findings of a survey they conducted in among children and youth in their communities, said it’s time leaders started listening to their younger constituents.

“It is necessary that we make changes now so that future generations can live in quality.”

Groups of young people across Brazil have spent months in the lead up to Rio+20, talking to others in their favelas and communities, to gather opinions – and proposed solutions – about issues that affect their daily lives.

“The results have been pretty interesting,” says World Vision’s Maria Carolina Silva. “We know youth often have a better understanding of poverty and development issues than we give them credit for, which we’ve seen once again, but our survey shows they offer solutions and ideas as well. Their perspective is too valuable to ignore.”

Nearly two thirds (61.6 per cent) of young people surveyed said climate change affects their daily life, and more than two thirds (66.7 per cent) say governments aren’t doing enough about it.

Almost all (96 per cent) of the participants in the World Vision survey emphasised the importance of youth participation in discussions about sustainable development, and the need to ensure that this participation significantly contributes to improving quality of life.

More than half, 52.8 per cent, say public health services are disconnected from their social reality. Health services are outdated, meaning messages – particularly those of life-saving prevention – are not reaching those who need to hear them the most. 

“Despite this, nearly 85 per cent of them said they want to get involved more actively to improve the quality of health services in their communities,” says Silva. “They are a huge untapped resource and shouldn’t be ignored.

“World and community leaders need to listen – and to work with these young people to make the changes they so clearly know need to happen.”