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Today’s youth is the largest generation in history, which means it has never been more important to encourage and facilitate their engagement in legal, political and social issues around the world. It’s also a wonderful avenue through which young people in disadvantaged communities can be recognised for their contributions.

The theme for International Youth Day 2021 is ‘Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health’, with the aim of highlighting that the success of such a global effort will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people.

What is the history of International Youth Day?

The United Nations celebrated its first ever Year of Youth in 1985. A decade later, a global forum known as the United Nations General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), which outlines a set of policies designed to improve the situation of the world’s youth. They designated 12 August as International Youth Day, with the first one celebrated in 2000.

Why is International Youth Day important?

International Youth Day is a day to celebrate the important contribution that young people make to our societies, and to ensure they are heard on issues of importance to them. 

Through youth education, engagement, innovation and entrepreneurial solutions, this year’s International Youth Day aims to provide a platform for young people to continue the momentum from the 2021 ECOSOC Youth Forum in the lead up to the high-level Food Systems Summit.

A key part of this is encouraging young people to get involved. The United Nations recognises the importance of engaging youth, not only so they can combat their own adversities and address the issues that are important to them, but so they can work together to combat challenges that limit disadvantaged communities and youth as a whole.

What is the role of young people in reaching the Global Goals?

There are three main reasons why this year’s International Youth Day is so important.

First, there are only 10 years to go until the United Nations 2030 Agenda comes to an end. Also known as the Global Goals, or the Sustainable Development Goals, this is a global initiative to wipe out poverty by directing the world toward a more sustainable economic, social, and environmental path. The Global Goals include 17 targets, and it is important that young people can take an active role in helping these initiatives have a positive impact in their societies and nations. Second, the United Nations has acknowledged that many people are questioning the legitimacy and relevance of governance. We are living in a difficult time, with some of the worst conflicts and humanitarian emergencies the world has ever seen, as well as new challenges like climate change and COVID-19. 

It’s essential that youth feel empowered to take action, speak up for things that are important to them, and make their personal contribution to global development.Third, International Youth Day is an opportunity to recognise that not all young people are afforded the same opportunities in life. Many face significant barriers, including poverty, access to education and healthcare, and grow up within disadvantaged communities. International Youth Day is an opportunity to recognise the importance of creating equal opportunities and development for all youth, no matter where they’re from, and to make sure their voices can be heard.

Why do we celebrate International Youth Day?

Without a doubt, the best part about International Youth Day is the opportunity to hear young people’s voices, and celebrate the contributions they make to their communities. It is a chance to address the legal and cultural issues facing young people, recognise their abilities, and encourage them to keep speaking up.

This year, the United Nations will commemorate International Youth Day with a podcast discussion, hosted by and for youth, along with independently organised activities around the world. It’s an invitation for young people to jump into discussions about political, economic and social issues.

You can also share your celebrations online and become a part of the global conversation around International Youth Day. Make sure you use the hashtags #YouthDay, #Youth4GlobalAction and #SDG16. You can also follow @UN4Youth on Twitter and the UN4Youth page on Facebook.

Now is the time for young people to think about their aspirations for the future, listen to the views of other young people around the world, and speak up about the governance they want to see in the future. They can make incredible contributions to their communities, their nations, and their world.

How you can help support children in poverty this International Youth Day

Every child should experience a childhood in which they are nurtured, protected and given access to opportunity. You can donate to where it is most needed, and your donation will be allocated across our child-focused projects on your behalf. Alternatively, sponsor a child in the spirit of International Youth Day and start your journey of change today. 

Your support will not only help a child in need, and their entire family, but extend the reach of International Youth Day throughout the year.

At ChildFund we believe all children should grow up feeling cared for, encouraged and valued, no matter where they live.

Every child should explore, learn and thrive, and be able to reach their potential.

Unfortunately, many children around the world grow up in an environment of fear, unable to have the childhood they need. Millions of children are forced to work in dangerous conditions when they should be learning and growing in the safety of a classroom.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to force more children into the workforce, with the economic impact adding further pressure to the household income of vulnerable families.

Despite laws to protect children, and an overall decline in the number of child labourers, 152 million children are still working too early. Below we take a look at how all 152 million children around the world are affected by exploitation as child labourers.

Many children work in agriculture, construction and other hazardous jobs

Of the 152 million children working, 73 million are in hazardous jobs. Agriculture, construction and manufacturing are some of the main industries employing children. In these industries children can be exposed to toxic chemicals, expected to operate dangerous machinery, and expected to work long hours and risk abuse.

When children work they often have to drop out of school, or their education suffers as a result of the additional responsibilities they have outside of school.

“In my life, I am happiest when I go to school, and see my classmates having fun,” said Phhuong, from Cambodia who dropped out of school in Grade 6 to help her younger brother continue his education.

“When I see my friends going to school, I feel very regretful. “I am not able to meet them any more. We used to play together.”

A report by the International Labor Organisation in 2015 found that in some countries working children were half as likely to attend school as children who were not working.

Without an education, or with a limited education, children are more likely to end up low-paid jobs which decreases their chances to escape poverty.

Older children are expected to work to provide for their younger siblings

In the world’s poorest countries, one in four children is a child labourer.

In many cases, the eldest child in the family is the most vulnerable to child labour. As soon as they are old enough to work, they are expected to help provide for their younger siblings.

Children may be expected to work if their parents are unable to

Sometimes children will be forced to work if one of their parents is unable to work. This is what happened to Arum’s daughter Mony, who is 13 years old and working in a dangerous brick factory after he mother was injured at work.

“I don’t want my kids uneducated like me,” Arun said. “I want them to study so they’re able to find better jobs.

“But I didn’t know what to do when my wife could not help me out on family income.”

Almost half of all child labourers are younger than 11 years old. In most regions, girls and boys are equally likely to be engaged in child labour.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted child labour?

COVID-19 has shocked markets and economies around the globe. The resulting impact has the potential to push millions of children living in developing communities into child labour. As parents become sick with COVID-19, children may be forced to work to support the household. There is also no guarantee that all children in developing communities will be able to return to school once government lockdowns lift and schools reopen. Children who do not return to school are at high risk of early entry to the workforce. 

Regions where child labour markets have been particularly resistant to changes in policy and practice may see circumstances become more difficult for children in the workforce. Disrupted supply chains, falling commodity prices and stalled manufacturing could see children, already in the workforce, enduring more hazardous conditions than before.

Get involved with World Day Against Child Labour

World Day Against Child Labour is a United Nations sanctioned observance that is held annually on 12 June. The observance raises awareness of child labour and encourages activism against child labour of all forms.

What is the theme for World Day Against Child Labour 2021?

World Day Against Child Labour 2021 is focused on mitigating the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic on progress towards reducing child labour and exploitation around the globe. 

This year the United Nations will launch a “Week of Action”, beginning on 12 June, with the release of new estimates on child labour and the effect of COVID-19 on child labour statistics.

How can you get involved with World Day Against Child Labour?

If you’d like to get involved with World Day Against Child Labour, there’s a few ways you can join the conversation:

  • Make a pledge: Encourage your organisation to make a pledge against child labour and how you will contribute to positive advances towards its reduction. 
  • Raise awareness: Share the new estimates for child labour or related resources on social media and raise awareness about the impact of COVID-19 on child labour around the globe. 
  • Start a conversation: Talk to family, friends, colleagues and others in your network about child labour. 
  • Fundraise for charity: Organise a charity fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an organisation that works against child labour, such as ChildFund Australia. No contribution to the cause is too small. 
  • Organise an activity: If you’re a teacher, you may wish to organise an activity at your school to raise awareness about child labour. 

How you can help end child labour

ChildFund believes that ending the exploitation of children is inextricably linked to our poverty reduction work.

Poverty can result in more children becoming involved in harmful labour, rendering them vulnerable to trafficking, and increasing the likelihood of girls marrying at a young age.

ChildFund works with local partners, governments and communities to prevent and respond to the exploitation of children around the world. Donate now to help give children a childhood in which they are nurtured, protected, and have access to opportunity.

You can also give to our COVID-19 emergency appeal, and help provide vital assistance for children impacted by the pandemic around the globe. You’ll help keep children safe during a crisis where children are at risk of being exploited.