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Safe Spaces for Youth: Cycling and panel discussion events held to mark International Youth Day in Eritrea

The National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) hosted a panel discussion event under the International Youth Day (IYD 2018) theme “Safe spaces for youth” on 25 September 2018. The celebration brought together high school and university students, artists, cyclists, and working youth to deliberate on safe spaces.

The 2018 theme focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 11 – sustainable cities and communities. SDG 11 emphasizes the need for the provision of space towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization.

Cycling events were held on Saturday the 22nd and Sunday the 23rd of September 2018 in Asmara, helping to kick off International Youth Day celebrations. The events were organized by NUEYS, in partnership with the cycling federation of Zoba Maekel, UNDP, UNFPA, and UNICEF. Cycling teams from different clubs participated in the competition within the following categories: men’s mountain race (teams A, B, and C), women’s mountain race, and women’s general race.

During the cycling event, the NUEYS Chairman, Mr. Saleh Ahmedin, said that the theme of this year’s IYD is significant to the youth since they play an important role in nation-building and development. He congratulated the winners and urged the youth to engage in sports and adopt healthy lifestyles.

Evan Mhireteab, Noel Habteab, and Isaiyas Fissehay won gold medals in the men’s mountain cycling competition. Eden Ghirmay from Gala Nefhi and Eden Tesfamichael from Arag club, both 16 years of age, won gold medals in the women’s races. They were both inspired by elder siblings and developed a keen interest in the sport. They attributed their win to discipline and intensive training – 24 hours every week. For 22-year-old Zinab Faxum, cycling has been her passion for the last 5 years. Her participation in 50 competitions has imparted wisdom to share with the youth. “I would encourage young people to take up cycling. It is fun and they can represent our country in global competitions,” she said.

While delivering the Resident Coordinator’s speech, the UNFPA Eritrea representative, Dr. Ibrahim Sambuli, said that the society had the power and the responsibility to ensure that every boy and girl make a safe and healthy transition through adolescence into responsible adulthood. He added that “The Government and the UN collaborative initiatives on youth issues promotes youth leadership and participation. Efforts are geared towards enabling young people to develop life skills and knowledge to make informed decisions and meaningfully contribute to the development aspirations of the country.”

In one of the panel discussions, students shared their ideas on what safety spaces meant in their physical and social spaces like home, school, playground, and the natural environment. They cited good practices like keeping good company, keeping the environment clean, good behaviour at school, and holding conversations with peers, parents, and teachers about decisions and issues that affect their lives.

The highlight of the day was the message from Selam Amare (15), a student at Asmara Comprehensive Secondary School, who gave six tips to ensure safe environment for the youth: Educate everyone; promote reproductive rights for women and girls; combat violence against women and girls; give advice to the youth; choose good friends; influence people; and lead by example.

A dialogue by youth representatives from NUEYS, the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW), the Ministry of Housing, Land and Welfare (MoHLW), the Ministry of Education (MoE), and the UN examined the role played by their organizations in creating safe space for the youth. They all concluded that the youth need spaces for engagement and called for partnership with all the stakeholders.

The idea for International Youth Day was proposed in 1991 by young people who were gathered in Vienna, Austria, for the first session of the UN’s World Youth Forum. The forum recommended that an International Youth Day be declared, especially for fundraising and promotional purposes, to support the United Nations Youth Fund in partnership with youth organizations. This year, IYD sought to raise awareness on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda that reiterates the need for public spaces for the youth to enable them to interact with family and have constructive inter-generational dialogue.

In addition, during the recently concluded 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, the United Nations Secretary-General launched a new partnership strategy with the world’s 1.8 billion young people on 24th September 2018, to help put “their ideas into action”. Youth 2030: The United Nations Youth Strategy, is the UN’s strategy to engage with, but especially to empower, young people. “And as we change, we will work with our partners to do likewise” and spur new partnerships, the UN chief said, identifying five key areas:

Opening new routes 1. to involve young people and amplify their voices.

Strengthening the 2. UN’s focus on their accessing education and health services.

Placing their economic 3. empowerment at the fore of development strategies, with a focus on training and jobs.

Working to ensure their 4. rights, and civic and political engagement.

Prioritizing support for 5. young people in conflict and in humanitarian crises, including their participation in peace processes.

The Strategy aims to facilitate increased impact and expanded global, regional and country-level action to address the needs, build the agency and advance the rights of young people in all their diversity around the world, and to ensure their engagement and participation in the implementation, review, and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as other relevant global agendas and frameworks.


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