A Decent Home Gives Young People The Power To Change The Future
Friday 12th August is International Youth Day, when the world comes together to celebrate the impact and potential of young people – and we’ve never needed their energy, resilience, and ambition more. At a time when governments are still discussing how to Build Back Better, the cost of living crisis is affecting people everywhere, and the long term impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt by many, the importance of young people in shaping our future is clear. We have just eight years to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and unlocking the potential of young people is essential in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
As well as celebrating their potential, it’s also a day to recognise the challenges young people face – here are a few facts that underscore why the world needs to pay more attention to our youth.
They are a large group – over 40% of the global population is aged 25 years or under, and half of these young people live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Too many don’t receive an education – more than 195 million secondary school-age youth are not in school.
They are affected by war – over 450 million young people live in conflict zones, exposed to unimaginable danger on a daily basis.
They struggle to find work – young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and yet, over the next decade, one billion young people will enter the labour market.
Despite these challenges, young people are optimistic about their futures, recognising the opportunities that technology and digital media can open up. They are self-motivated – in the UK alone, over half of young people say they are exploring entrepreneurship. It is exactly this sense of dynamism and positivity that we need.
After all, the aims of the SDGs and their central promise to “Leave No One Behind” remind us that if we are to have any chance of meeting the goals, young people need to be at the heart of those efforts. They need to be empowered and given the best foundation to achieve their potential, and at Habitat for Humanity we believe that access to decent and affordable housing is fundamental to this. Not only does housing contribute directly or indirectly to all 17 SDGs, but the stability and security of a decent home opens the door to improved health, better livelihood opportunities, greater security for women and young people and better performance in school and at work.
Engaging and Supporting Young People
Habitat for Humanity are on the ground in almost 70 countries around the world. We help people in need build, repair and renovate homes, make buildings more energy efficient, provide water and sanitation solutions, mitigate the effects of disasters and support housing microfinance initiatives and other innovations in the housing ecosystem. In the majority of these projects, young people are key to our work, and the impact we seek to achieve. I’d like to share some examples which illustrate how we engage with, and support, young people in widely differing contexts and locations.
In the UK, almost two million children are living in overcrowded, unaffordable or unsuitable homes. We are working with charities and local authorities to convert empty commercial spaces into good quality social housing which will be used to house young adults leaving care, providing an important source of stability at this important stage in their lives. We’re piloting this model in London, and have set up a coalition of partners to help roll out this approach across Great Britain.
In Nepal, we are helping to nurture the leaders of tomorrow by developing a programme to identify and engage and empower young people at the community level. We recently trained 27 young people on Disaster Risk Reduction and Response strategies, and in understanding and supporting women’s property rights and the importance of Joint Land Title. This knowledge will be taken back to their communities and used to develop projects owned by the communities themselves.
In Zambia, where the majority of young people in cities live in informal settlements with inadequate access to water and sanitation, we are empowering young people to become change agents in their communities. We have trained 20 young people from Makululu, Zambia’s largest slum, to become Sports Mediators. Using sport, these mediators are teaching themselves, their families and the wider community about their rights around access to housing, resulting in greater uptake of occupancy licenses. We are now exploring how this approach can be scaled nationally.
The Importance of Youth
In almost every project we run, youth are critical partners. And that is exactly as it should be. Young people are important. The world needs them to contribute with all their energy, drive and hope, and it will take the effort of all generations to remove the barriers that hinder their potential.
This International Youth Day, Habitat for Humanity celebrates young people, and we call on all those in a position to support young people to do so, recognising that they hold the solution to many of the problems we all face.
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