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International Youth Day 2017: Let's Trigger Change!

On August 12, we celebrated International Youth Day (IYD) in many countries around the world. Oxfam and partners organised events in countries including Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada (Québec), Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Solomon Islands and Somalia. Among the thousands who gathered to inspire and trigger change were youth, policy-makers, government members, social entrepreneurs and others from the private sector, and members of academia and the media.

Youth worldwide are working to change their village, city, country, or region – and thereby contribute to changing the world. As leaders and activists, they become agents of change and inspiring role models who show what is possible. On International Youth Day this year, the Youth as Active Citizens (YAC) community devoted extra attention to role models.

IYD activities and events were shared using hashtags including #letstriggerchange, #oxfamyouth, #IYD2017, #youthday, #journeeinternationaledelajeunesse, #provoquonslechangement, #JIJ2017 and #empoweryouthforwork. They are tracked on this map and further detailed on the IYD page on YAC’s website and on the Empower Youth for Work' website.


IYD events from around the world

Oxfam in Nigeria organised an event with successful young entrepreneurs in industries including ICT,

IYD in Nigeria

agriculture, logistics and creative industries, who engaged other youth by sharing their stories and experiences. “When you have that dream, you have to really believe in that dream. And if you believe in it, you’re gonna do what it takes to get to this dream,” says Angel Adelaja, CEO of Fresh Direct NG, and one of the role models of the day.

The presence among the role models of a popular Nigerian actress, Bimbo Akintola, helped the event to attract over 100 attendees. It was streamed live on Oxfam in Nigeria’s Facebook platform, garnering over 10,000 views. And it led to over 400,000 impressions on Twitter, with the hashtags #letstriggerchange and #iyd2017 trending in Lagos and nationally.

IYD in Pakistan

Over 300 people joined Oxfam in Pakistan for an event featuring Pakistan’s first PechaKucha – a presentation format in which 20 images are shown each for 20 seconds. Young entrepreneurs, activists and digital innovators were among those exchanging ideas and sharing their stories.

Bad weather did not dent the enthusiasm of almost 600 rural youth – especially girls – who joined events in four areas of Bangladesh (Rangpur, Khulna, Barisal and Rajshahi) featuring interactive sessions between youth and government officials, drama and motivational speeches from role models.

IYD in Bangladesh

Md Jashim, a young entrepreneur from Barisal, told participants: “Never fear what others may say. If you want to become an entrepreneur then you must listen to your heart and follow your dream.” One female participant in Rangpur said: “I never thought I would be able to think of myself as a person who would work and contribute to her family. But after listening to our role model's life experience, I think I can also become a symbol of strength.”


The day after IYD, Oxfam in Bangladesh hosted a Facebook live programme with the Secretary-in-Charge at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Md Ashadul Islam, to discuss the implementation of the National Youth Policy 2017. The event got close to 1000 views. It was the first time a top-level government official has used social media to reach out specifically to rural youth.

IYD in Quebec, Canada – Credits: Jah_Mtl

In Montreal, Québec, Canada, Joannie Bewa – who participated in the event organised by Oxfam-Québec with the Youth Engagement Coalition – shared her inspiring journey as a young Beninese leader on issues of sexual and reproductive health: “Continue dreaming, this is what is really important!”

Oxfam-Québec also took the opportunity to share the Youth Manifesto to End Inequality, which was co-created by hundreds of youth in 2016 and gained visibility around the world through conferences, websites and workshops.

The idea of “dreaming big” crosses frontiers: “The strength of women lies in the heart and will. No matter what other people say, have confidence in yourself and follow your dream,” said Ung Chansophea, CNC/CTN producer and newsreader, to hundreds of young women and men from Phnom Penh and five provinces of Cambodia. They celebrated IYD under the theme “Building Confidence of Young Women” at an event organised by Cambodia Young Women Empowerment Network (CYWEN), Youth Council of Cambodia (YCC) and Oxfam in Phnom Penh. A range of activities encouraged young women and men to discuss and reflect on their experiences, identify barriers and how to overcome them, and express themselves through art and innovation.

IYD in Cambodia


IYD in Indonesia

In Indonesia, the Empower Youth for Work (EYW) programme celebrated the IYD through events that reached more than 400 youth, and engaged around another 2000 online through social media. Events held in West Java and Southeast Sulawesi were acknowledged by the Head of the Local Planning Agency, who said he is committed to reducing early marriage and encouraging youth to engage in local industry. Nine people made PechaKucha presentations, sharing their inspiring stories, including a young woman entrepreneur in construction, a young man who became an entrepreneur in herbs, a coffee seller, and an environmental activist.

IYD in Ethiopia

Young men and women in Ethiopia’s Somali and Oromia Regional states attended events organised by

Oxfam in Ethiopia’s EYW project, the Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOCO), and the Rift Valley Children and Women Development Organization (RCWDO) in collaboration with local administrations. They included artistic performances and presentations on subjects including illegal migration and drug use.


Regional officials, youth and women association representatives and elders together voiced the need to empower youth during a one-day plenary session in Jigjiga town, Somali Regional State, on August 10. In her message to participants, the Somali Regions’ Youth and Sport Director Mrs. Misk emphasised the importance of skills training for young women and men: “Skill is the only tool that goes with you everywhere.’’

IYD in Somalia

In Somalia, government officials presented an award to 12 young role models, who also made PechaKucha presentations. “Our future depends on you,” Abdirashid Ibrahim Kahin, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, told the young people who attended. “We will pay every price to invest in you and make sure that you achieve more.”

Mubarak Ismail, Director of the Planning Department of the Ministry of Planning, added: “72% of people in Somalia are youth. This generation will take our country into a better future.” Abdilahi Hassan, HAVOYOCO Country Representative, said: “The future of Somalia is bright if this generation dares to dream big. I have faith in you that you will learn a lot from these role models.”

Oxfam in Ghana collaborated with Melton Foundation to organise a youth-focused roundtable,  Collaborative Leadership Across Boundaries to Drive Change in Society, at which four experts shared their experiences and advice.

IYD in Toffo, Benin

Oxfam in Benin marked IYD at the Festival des Arts, des Cultures, et du Tourisme (FACTO), in the locality of Toffo, by

organising demonstrations, exhibitions, stands and sketches to campaign against violence against women and girls. In Sô-Ava, Benin, Oxfam partner’s organisation COSC invited youth through the Espace Jeunesse project to express their concerns creatively on themes identified in 2016 through the Youth Manifesto to End Inequality.

IYD in Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, the youth coalition Coalition Jeunesse BF, supported by OXFAM in Burkina, met on August 11 with representatives from the UN, Oxfam, Youth Ministry, Directorate for Education in Citizenship, Ministry for Higher Education and other allies, actual and potential, to get guidance on their advocacy messages against youth inequality. More information is available on Facebook via the hashtags #JIJBF2017 #CoalitionJeunesseBF, and @jeunes_bf on Twitter.

In Honduras, an activity under the motto “Disconnect from stigma” was organised by the NGO coalition COIPRODEN and an emerging youth movement, MOJUREH. During a “Café Politico” event, young people met with candidates for the presidential and congressional elections planned for November 2017.

IYD in Columbia

The youths presented an 8-point agenda covering education, political and institutional participation,

security and citizen coexistence, employment, health, disabiliies, indigenous peoples, and culture, art and sports.

Finally, in Columbia, young rural women from FEDEMUCC met to discuss building youth participation in the country.


The importance of role models

Role models are important for young people to boost confidence, motivation and inspiration”, says Robbert van de Waerdt, Policy Advisor on Youth at Oxfam Novib.

Sissy Austin, Senior Youth Programme Officer at Oxfam Australia, adds: “Role models are also important for specific groups of youth, for instance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, who need to ensure their voices are respected, heard and valued.”

Oxfam Australia's Youth Engagement Adviser, Sharon Settecasse, has written a blog on the value of positive role-modelling.

Another blog post – by Marième Soda Ndiaye, a young Senegalese leader and Oxfam’s Magalie Laliberté – explores the process of networking and developing programmes to support active citizenship and youth employment opportunities in West Africa.

The role models video we created – with contributions from countries including Spain, Ethiopia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, the Solomon Islands, Australia and the Netherlands – has reached more than 15,000 people.