Youth Participation – August 26 2022

Benin's child rights ambassador Yvette Natta becomes a role model for young people

Yvette Natta was only 4 years old when her father died. From a small village in Northern Benin, West Africa, her mother wasn’t able to provide for her and her brother and this is why Yvette was welcomed at the SOS Children’s Village in Natitingu the same year.

“I spent my whole life there, but I would still go see my biological mother during the holidays,” recalls Yvette, who is now 22 years old.

Yvette has been an incredibly bright student since a very early age. The best of her class already in elementary school, she was determined and committed to embark on an ambitious journey that would have taken her far from where she started off from.

Yvette was born in a rural community where being a child wasn’t always easy. Corporal violences against children in school and in the households was a widespread practice. She was only 9 years old when she became class representative and member of the school executive committee and started to sensitise children and adults on issues of corporal violence.

“SOS Children’s Villages taught me about children’s rights, and this is why I have become aware and sensitive about certain issues affecting children,” she says. “ I have never been scared of talking to adults, and I think this is because, at the SOS Children’s Village, we were always free to express ourselves and to communicate openly.”

In 2012, on the International Day of the Child, Yvette and other young children’s rights advocates organised and led advocacy activities with local authorities in the Atakora district, in northern Benin. They asked for financial support and school materials for students in the region and Yvette’s speech was broadcasted on TV.

In 2020, Yvette and another youth ambassador developed a project for the protection of children’s rights during the Covid-19 pandemic. The project was submitted to Youth Power (an international youth empowerment programme sponsored by USAID), and was eventually selected and financed. “We were able to train 2,500 young people in different communities in Benin on the risks of Covid-19 and ways to reduce them. We could also distribute hygiene kits.”

Youth employability at the centre of Yvette’s social engagement

Today, Yvette’s children’s rights advocacy focuses primarily on youth employability. “Now that I am a young woman, I face the fact that children need to become autonomous and learn how to do so.”

In 2017, Yvette participated in the international launch of YouthCan!, an SOS Children’s Villages-led programme that promotes youth entrepreneurship globally. She went to Addis Ababa to represent Benin at the inauguration conference, where she gave a speech on the challenges that children in Benin face to find jobs. “Seeing that my engagement was obtaining international resonance was special. People were listening to me and not only in my community or district. One kid at the event told me that I was a model for him, and it touched me. I would love to bring my voice even further”, she recalls, proudly.

Yvette’s ambition is now to talk in front of the high representatives of the United Nations: “This would mark the beginning of a real change for millions of children in my home country.”

The sky has no limit

After her Master’s degree, Yvette is planning to work for Deloitte, the consulting firm. She is already working on her resume to make sure, once again, that her ambition is fulfilled and her dreams can come true.

Text and photos by Jessica Tradati