Raising her voice for the future: Yvonne's passionate commitment to the children of Chad

From an early age, Yvonne, a 17-year-old from Chad, has been a champion of children's rights, access to education and gender equality.

Girls in Chad face major barriers to education because of poverty and the society’s perception of women and girls. Yvonne, as an ambassador for 'Education for All' has been an outspoken advocate for children’s right, especially girls’ education.

“Children's rights are violated in Chad,” says Yvonne, who lives at the SOS Children’s Village in N'Djamena, Chad’s capital. “For lower-income families, there is hardly any food and children often do not go to school.

“When children do manage to go to school, it is almost always the boys that go,” Yvonne explains.

It seems as if education is a right for boys and a favour for girls.
That has to change and that is why I am taking action.

Yvonne recently brought her message to decision-makers at the EU level, where she attended the European Humanitarian Forum 2024, a conference convened in March by the European Commission and dedicated to emergency aid.

As Chad’s voice, she joined a high-level panel alongside other children, UN representatives, EU officials, and delegates from EU Member States, highlighting the humanitarian crises, such as in Chad, that are often overshadowed by more widely covered global conflicts.

While in Brussels, Yvonne also spoke to Her Majesty Mathilde, the Queen of the Belgians, and European Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, stressing the importance of upholding children's rights and ensuring access to education for all.

"I want decision-makers and donors to take children's voices into account," she says. "Every child deserves protection, peace and the opportunity to flourish, and for that it is imperative that their rights are defended and respected."

‘Children in Chad don’t feel protected’

A 2023 report from the World Food Programme states that 57% of the 2.3 million school-age children in Chad go without quality and inclusive education, and low-income families are unable to pay the expenses related to education.

This leaves girls at risk of early marriage and early pregnancies. Sixty eight percent of girls in Chad are married before the age of 18, which can result in social exclusion, violence, and chronic health problems, according to WFP.

"Chadian children don't feel protected, especially those affected by the crisis," Yvonne said in her speech at the Forum. "They are separated from their parents; their homes have been destroyed. The lack of access to basic necessities, education, healthcare, and infrastructure demanding urgent and concerted action."

Yvonne’s advocacy extended to the #VoteforChildren campaign, launched by the Child Rights Action Group, co-chaired by SOS Children’s Villages. She emphasized the important of children’s participation as a right, declaring “Every decision made without us is a decision against us.”

Yvonne’s commitment goes beyond words. As an ambassador for the 'Education for All' club, she leads efforts to highlight education's crucial role in shaping a better future. "When children in our community tell us that they don't go to school, we talk to their parents, armed with evidence of education's importance. Though responses vary, many parents find it hard to resist," she says.


Yvonne’s ultimate dream

Yvonne's story illustrates the power of young people's commitment to defending children's rights. As she continues on her journey, her resilience and passion are a beacon of hope, inspiring people to join the ongoing struggle for a more equitable and inclusive world.

She says her dream for the future is that “the voices of children in Chad are heard.”

“We children know what we need for a good future. We would like to go to school.
But the adults don't always listen. They must first know what we children want in order to take the right action.”

“My ultimate dream is that every child in Chad is protected and lives in peace, joy and harmony,” Yvonne says.

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