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Youth for change

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45 students across New Zealand converged in Auckland last month to attend UNICEF’s second ever Youth Congress 2013, a follow on from the successful event held in 2011.

The 3 day conference themed ‘Be the Change’ centred around children’s rights and poverty issues that UNICEF tackles in regions all around the world and included a fantastic line-up of speakers that challenged and broadened our views. They also held some very interesting workshops on how to actually take action and bring about change in your community and the world. We were welcomed with an earnest waiata and a cluster of adorable kindergarten kids singing and dancing.

A broad range of topics were covered. A session on teenage pregnancy in Samoa detailed the cultural stigma and the poverty cycle involved when a young woman becomes pregnant and the possible underlying educational problems.

Global Poverty Project’s presentation on their campaign Live Below the Line saw many of us scoring tickets to their upcoming concert featuring many New Zealand artists which generated a huge amount of excitement, as did their ideas and encouragement on bringing Live Below the Line into our local communities. Our little Macleans group were inspired by the different events that had been carefully planned and organized in previous years by students and our Youth Ambassadors. We have been motivated to hold a three-course charity dinner at Macleans in late September this year to encourage more people to take part in Live Below the Line, and our aim is to keep the cost per head below $2.25, which is what people living in extreme poverty use for their living costs per day and we are confident it will be a fantastic night.

There was a clear focus on the Convention of the Rights of the Child which declares the rights that every child should have. These non-negotiable standards and obligations set the foundation for protecting the opportunity, education, dignity and worth of children. Examining this document and relevant case studies revealed the sheer number of children denied this protection and the true purpose of UNICEF in speaking on behalf of these unheard children.

We gained a much greater understanding of how to speak to the media and make yourself heard by journalists and reporters. Speaking out about global issues is certainly a daunting and seemingly impossible task when everyone wants their voice heard but this media session taught us that it is more than possible if you use the right etiquette and present yourself in a collected manner.

The conference involved staying in a beautiful marae for 2 nights with some fantastic catering, and there were plenty of social and leisure activities like watching movies, a ridiculously long congo line and a Hunger-Games style stakeout game led by the Youth Ambassadors. There were opportunities to experience what Auckland has to offer, an eye-opening experience for those who had travelled a long distance to get to the conference. This included fun activities such as a cooking challenge at Sachie’s Kitchen and a quiz in the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Youth Congress was a clear success, with evidently a huge amount of effort put in by the UNICEF staff and the Youth Ambassadors. I recommend participating in the next Congress as it is a fantastic experience which aligns you with passionate, energetic, like-minded youths from all over New Zealand.

For more information check out: http://www.unicef.org.nz/YouthCongress

Written by Saffron Huang. Edited by Keniel Yao.

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