THE BLOG
08/06/2014 12:57 pm ET Updated Oct 06, 2014

It's Time for Youth to Cross the Bridge - From Challenge to Opportunity

Andreea Bordei was born and raised in Transylvania, Romania and holds a MA in Advanced Studies in Social Communication from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain. Andreea has been volunteering in socio-cultural integration projects, environmental issues and education before moving her focus on youth. Under this new context, working for UNFPA, NY, she was part of the team who delivered the Global Youth Forum in Bali 2012. Andreea continued her work on youth under various projects around the world, being a firm believer in the power youth has to bring positive social change. Having extended her communication practice to the private sector, Andreea recently came back to the non-for profit sector as Communications and Events Officer at the European Volunteering Centre (CEV), Brussels and a Partnership and Communication Consultant for the Summer Youth Assembly at the UN.

I can't remember the exact moment when I became a youth activist. Maybe it was in high school, when my History teacher allegedly called me Ana Ipatescu, a Romanian revolutionary, which at the time I thought is must have been some sort of a confusion my teacher made. Or maybe she sensed something.

It could be the moment was when I actually started working on youth projects. Or maybe it was sometime in between. I really can't tell, since it feels life forever since I have the belief youth have the power to change the world for the better.

Along the way, I have encountered so many amazing, inspirational young people and heard such successful stories that I can rightfully state youth hold the strength to build the future. Nearly a half of the world population is under 25 years old. There is a global consensus that youth must be empowered to act for a sustainable future.

Truth be told, we are living in a challenging era for youth: limitations or even lack of access to education, failure to recognize different forms of education, unemployment or low employment rates, poor quality or inexistence of health services, uneven perceptions of sexual and reproductive rights, restrictions in civic participation -- all these are areas, that although may present variations at a local or community level, they must be dealt with globally.

In the past few years, I have participated in various youth related actions around the world with representatives from all sectors (the UN, Government officials, civil society and private sector) who came together to find ways to overcome these challenges youth are facing today. Now you may wonder how these challenges were formulated. The easiest thing to believe is that the information has been gathered from facts at local level, facts that can speak louder than any words ever could. But please allow me to reveal something to you:

For many of us, liberty of speech is a given. But please stop and think about all those whose voices cannot be heard, those whose voices are not accepted/ acceptable for various implied reasons, in their national/local/community context.

If it had not been for these global reunions, we would not have known about the existence or the extent of all these issues youth are facing. It is because every time more of the world's minorities are being represented in these global meetings that one can be sure the challenges for youth today have been coherently identified. And so have been the solutions.

Youth now have the opportunity to speak up and express their biggest concerns and problems, in a global context.

This is where I have experienced a change of perspective, looking from challenges to opportunities. Yes, challenges do exist. But I choose to look at the great opportunity youth today have in coming together and really speak up.

In the recently ended AIDS 2014 conference, the youth representative from Côte D'Ivoire talks about sexual education for youth and says: "In my country, when adolescents ask questions about sex, they say 'Don't you know, curiosity killed the cat?' Actually, it's not curiosity, but it's ignorance that kills." And it is not a single person's voice; this is the voice of an entire community.

It would be a paradox to believe we could in other way find out about the problems these young people are facing rather than from their own mouths, considering that in their community expressing these problems seems to be impossible.

Having formulated all these challenges and having found the solution for so many of them, there are now a multitude of programs being implemented around the world, as well as fierce advocacy and policy change efforts, aiming to end the limitations youth have and trying to solve their problems in view of a more viable future for all. These programs are being implemented either by organizations, youth themselves or through partnerships.

Talking about opportunity -- here it is again. Youth are now able to partner with different organizations into achieving their goals for social change. This is the kind of opportunity youth ought to be taking everywhere in the world.

Youth already took the matter in their own hands and it is inspiring to see how many initiatives are being led by youth today. At a UN open meeting past year, I remember having heard a truly inspirational story of a young man from Nepal, who spoke about his "inspiring, empowering and engaging" campaign run in the organization he himself founded "Team for Nature and Wildlife." His organization aims to support and train young people to become agro-entrepreneurs, thus using precisely the resources they have in their community. On long term, his target is to train 100,000 young farmers. Judging by the amount of people who approached him after his speech, I dare to believe he is much closer to achieving his goal.

This is where I see another opportunity we have today. We are given the opportunity to share our experiences and stories that will inspire and help other young people to take a proactive approach in building their future.

Many may think these resources are difficult to obtain and I would mostly agree. Not all people have the same resources and this can make it difficult to achieve real change. There are however resources that are available to all of us -- take sports, art and cultural expressions. Even with limitations, one way or another we do have access to these, since they surround us and moreover, given that they unite us, they make it so much more possible to achieve change if properly used. In this sense, I am looking forward to seeing youth engage in YouthChangers, a platform that Friendship Ambassadors Foundation and SPORTS195 have developed for this year's edition of the Youth Assembly at the UN. Yet another opportunity for youth.

I chose to focus on opportunities, but I am not ignoring the challenges. I am choosing to look further than that. And I do believe we have taken a step forward -- we are not coming together to discuss challenges, but to create opportunities. This is where I choose to use my resources on and I would strongly advise youth around the world to do the same.

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