Young people advocate for youth empowerment during 2018 IIFMENA Conference

SOS Children’s Villages participated in Investing in the Future, Middle East and North Africa, ‘IIFMENA’, which took place in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates from 24 to 25 October, 2018. Seven young people from the Middle East and North Africa represented the organization by sharing their viewpoint on the challenges youth face in the region and explored means to empower the young generation, both socially and economically.
“Participating in this conference made me realize even more how much we, as youth, are responsible for building a better future for the world. We are the future”, said Loai, a young participant from SOS Children’s Villages Jordan.
 
The young participants worked for five days on 15 recommendations to support youth development and help them overcome the main obstacles being encountered nowadays. These resolutions were presented during a panel discussion as the ‘Sharjah Youth Declaration’. The seven young participants emphasized modernizing education and making it more accessible to everyone as a driving force behind their development and that of their societies. They also reinforced the importance of representing youth in policy-making through youth councils and ministries of youth. In a region that has been affected by an increase of conflicts in recent years, it was also fundamental to bring up the necessity of protecting and developing youth in emergency areas. The resolution also placed emphasis on gender equity and women’s empowerment. 
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IIFMENA was organized by The Big Heart Foundation and brought together representatives from governments, civil society, academia, the private sector, international organizations and UN agencies. It also saw the participation of the human rights activist Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Laureate, as a keynote speaker.
 
The conference was an opportunity to reflect on the current and future measures that governments and organizations implement in the region and aims to develop policies and practical solutions that ensure that vulnerable populations receive the assistance and protection that they require.

The participation of the seven youth came as a first participation of the SOS Children’s Villages MENA Youth Advisory Council – YAC – in an international event. The YAC, which comprises representatives of SOS Youth from each country in the MENA region where SOS Children’s Villages runs programmes, was created to provide advice and youth-based recommendations to the SOS Children’s Villages National Associations and the International Office of Region for the MENA in the planning, development and implementation of youth related strategies.