Monday, 28 April 2008

‘Youth are the best investment in the future of the nation’

Dr. Lauri Laski, Head of Adolescents and Youth, UNFPA, talks about the positive impact that youth have on society at the 'Youth Deliver the Future' conference.

What did UNFPA bring to the ‘Youth Deliver the Future’ conference?

UNFPA brought young people from around the world to the conference. This is very important for the conference agenda. Young people are after all a dynamic force for social change, and can advocate on behalf of marginalized youths. This can achieve a lot. Internationally UNFPA sponsored five people, and in Nigeria we sponsored 47 people.

What are your impressions of the conference so far?

I think the conference is a great idea. It is the first international conference that focuses on adolescent health research with a focus on reproductive health. If we can learn from this conference and support the development of research on adolescents and convince investors to invest more in young people, it would be a great achievement. Youths are the best investment in the future of the nation, as they are healthy and fresh workers.

What do you feel should be the outcomes of the conference?

We need to look at the research agenda of the conference so that African universities can do operations research and evaluate their own adolescent health programs. This allows the universities to become self sufficient in evaluating their adolescent health programs. This is an opportunity for Africa—the number of youths is very large, and many are living in poverty. Building adolescent health programs is a way to break the string of poverty that has captured families for generations. We need to invest in the most vulnerable populations, particularly young girls. We need to ensure that girls are put into school and given lifelong skills to enter labour markets and boost the national economy. Look at China and South Korea—they are investing a lot in young people and it has made a positive impact there!

What knowledge should youth delegates take away from this conference?

Youth can learn about successful interventions and best practices for adolescent health programs. Our youth are great links between researchers and policy makers. They can communicate results of research and advocate for more funding for adolescent health programs within our government policies. They can pressure their governments to put more funds into poverty prevention plans and to build strategies and policies in support of adolescent development.

By Amanda Hale

No comments: