The United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, on Friday visited the SOS Children’s Village in Mamelodi, South Africa, where he was attending the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg.
Influencing UN policy
The UN Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi -"SOS & the UN share the same values"
© SOS Archives
“SOS and the UN share the same values and goals, empowering young people,” Alhendawi said. “SOS does impressive work, work worth supporting.”
The advocacy work of Alhendawi, who was appointed to his position in January, is focused on the development needs and rights of young people, bringing the work of the United Nations with and for youth closer to them, and in turn helping them influence UN policies to ensure that their needs are addressed in UN initiatives and programmes.
Alhendawi was accompanied on his visit to the SOS Children’s Village by SOS Children’s Villages Regional Director Southern Africa Leutloa Moteetee and was welcomed there by SOS South Africa National Director Siphiwe Maphanga. SOS Village Director Soka Matlala, and the Child and Youth Development Coordinator, Victor Mbinga, took him on a tour of some of the houses, as well as the library and kindergarten. He was provided with an explanation of the programmes and how they benefit the children and young people in SOS Children’s Villages care.
Alhendawi conversed with the youth, in his words “the people who can tell the story”, asking about their interests and future plans.
Underscoring a commitment to allowing young people’s voices to be heard, Alhendawi said: “The UN is here to listen to the youth and support your work.”
Young people from the Village, as well as some from nearby SOS facilities and programmes, and ten SOS young people from other African countries asked, in a meeting with Alhendawi, how the UN cabinet works.
Improving the lives of the coming generation
SOS Children's VIllages South Africa preparing a new generation for a bright future © J. Lugtigheid
The young participants also inquired about opportunities within the UN and about what they could do to improve the lives of the coming generation, prompting Alhendawi to suggest that they “advise the UN on how to address the challenges that young people encounter.” He urged them to be part of the UN and to interact with it.
A young man from Burundi noted: “When you grew up in an institution, it is hard to adapt [to] society.”
He urged the UN to financially assist African countries because “Africans have brilliant ideas but lack funds.” Alhendawi assured him that “youth do form part of the UN budget”.
Another young person, from South Africa, commenting on the issue of unemployment, said: “The youth should stop feeling sorry for themselves and should get up and get things for themselves.”
Ahmad added: “Young people should be innovative and create jobs and take risks.”
As he concluded his visit he emphasised the importance of education, encouraging young people to focus on educating and empowering themselves, for a brighter future.