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Young advocates for education and gender equality meet in Nepal
“I know now I have certain responsibilities and that I can make decisions that will affect my community,” says Mr. Parwiz Akbar, a 19-year-old advocate from Afghanistan.
The workshop is part of the Young Champions program, a concept adopted by UNGEI as a way of working with young people at the global, regional and country levels to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals around education and gender equality.
Natural advocates for education
The UNGEI Young Champions are uniquely positioned to tackle these challenges, by reaching out to marginalized populations, and helping to change community attitudes through individual and group initiatives at the local level. They are natural and effective advocates for education, passionate about their own educational opportunities and now helping to ensure that the next generation, and their communities, benefit as well.
Mr.Dhurba Shrestha, one of the returning participants, lives and works in Pokhara in the western part of Nepal. Both his mother and father grew up without any formal schooling, but instilled the importance of education in their children.
“My father invested all of his income to teach me and my three brothers,” said Shrestha. “He had a dream for us to be educated and to do something for our society.”
In addition to his work with Aasaman, an NGO that works to get children into school in rural Nepal, he also coordinates other youth advocates working in villages across the country. Shrestha noted that the skills he and other champions learned in the workshop last year are critical for advocacy at a grassroots level.
“While working in the communities, communication is essential for us because what we want to do is change behaviors,” he said.
Mr. Akbar, who is also a youth journalist in his home country, founded and runs the magazine Amani, which focuses on a variety of social issues, including education for marginalized groups. He sees education as the key issue both for individuals and in the rebuilding of his country.
“For me education is power, improvement and happiness in life,” says Mr. Akbar. “The basic structure of society depends on education.”
Promoting education at the local level
The four-day workshop in Kathmandu will focus on further developing the media and communication skills of the Young Champions, as well as sharing and learning from presentations on activities that are taking place in countries throughout the region. As a group their work includes creating programs for community radio stations, writing newspaper articles, producing television documentaries, organizing school enrollment drives and leading campaigns to bringing dropouts back to school.
The UNGEI Young Champions are young women and men who are advocates and change makers in their communities and societies and, through their activities, address the overlapping and specific disparities that affect girls’ education in the region. Most young champions work at the community level with schools, teachers, youth groups, village facilitators and parents.