Taking Youth Development to the Digital Age


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sri lankan youth

Nearly a quarter of the world’s population today is made up of young people between the ages of 10-24 years. How can young people more effectively voice their opinions and ensure they are heard?
UNFPA’s mandate states that a safe passage from adolescence into adulthood is the right of every child. This right can only be fulfilled if focused investments are made to create opportunities to help them reach their full potential. This year’s theme for World Population Day, “Investing in young people” should be used to increase awareness and drive home this point.
In Sri Lanka, 15.6% of the total population is aged between 15- 24 years. Statistics show that this generation of youth is the most inter-connected in the world’s history. 61% of young people today possess mobile phones in Sri Lanka and this number is continuing to rise. ICT is changing the way the youth communicate and how they access knowledge and share resources.

My time at UNFPA has allowed me to realize the immense potential of Digital Communications as an ideal platform to create and spread awareness about struggles and issues faced by today’s youth. 

The World Conference on Youth (WCY) held in Colombo in May 2014, opened my eyes to the immense capabilities of youth both online and offline. I had a unique opportunity to meet young leaders from all corners of the world who were passionately advocating for issues closest to their hearts. The use of social media during the conference was unprecedented, giving young people a unique way of collaborating and connecting. WCY also broke the record for the most live tweeted conference in Sri Lanka.
UNFPA launched a publication at WCY that looked at Sri Lanka as an impressive example of successful youth leadership. The publication showcased eight stories of remarkable young individuals, who displayed exemplary talent, including Thilini, a young female entrepreneur who took the ancient industry of farming into the digital age through the development of a virtual marketplace, and this is just one example. By investing in our youth, we are giving them the platform to showcase and unlock immense untapped potential.

Crowdsourcing campaigns such as the UN's My World 2015 global survey are also gaining immense popularity through online and offline methods. Sri Lanka stands at the top contributing over 550,000 votes entirely from the 16-30 year age group. Once again, these campaigns reflect the tremendous capability of online communications impacting large scale development issues.

Click to check out the Youthlink site

Youthlink is a unique example in the sphere of online development for young people. It is a web portal and platform where young people can voice concerns and share ideas on solutions for Youth development mechanisms. As content manager of the website, I experience firsthand the power of these online platforms in bridging gaps between young people and facilitating strong relationships offline. Yet, this alone is not sufficient, and if we want to see real change, we need to facilitate further collaboration and invest in initiatives that give young people a stronger voice.

While young people may sometimes feel marginalized, their collective voices have never been stronger. So speak out and make your voice heard. And for the adults, it is now up to all of us to listen to them and work together for a better future. 



Tashiya de Mel

UNFPA Social Media Assistant

Ruwan Gunasena
July 11, 2014

Miss Tashiya De Mel
Well written.Brings the passion of your belief out into the open.
In the narrow minded cultural environment we still live in,young adults, still hold back their thoughts.
The stage you have created should be where the youth scream out their thoughts and ideas on what they think they should be;the world should.
It is a big mountain to climb and the terrain is tough and difficult to change,but,like in life, you have taken the first steps. You need to muster the experience of open minded adults as well as the raw exuberance of youth to help you to reach the summit
Maybe,you can think of translating your article for those who are not conversant in English,so everyone gets the message clearly. If not in this site, you can get it published in the respective language papers
After all, youth comes in all sizes,shapes,colours and races.
Really, very proud of you.

July 17, 2014

Thank you for your kind words. I am honoured to have contributed to this topic as it is such a prevalent topic today.
Translating the blog is definitely something we will be considering.

Manilal De Mel
July 11, 2014

I like to congratulate UNFPA for providing the leadership and contributing to the development of the youth segment and high lighting gender equality, particularly womens' issues. Respect and equal treatment of women in the work place,home, as well as in public should be inculcated in young minds from an early age.

July 17, 2014

Youth are crucial to UNFPA's mandate in so many ways. Investing in young people does indeed bring about great benefits as outlined in the blog.

July 11, 2014

Very good thinking, Keep up the good work.

July 17, 2014

Thank you for the support. Glad you enjoyed reading it.

Micaela Hierro Dori
July 11, 2014

United Nations state that support Young People to raise their voices but they do not accept the participation of young people who works defending their rights as in Cuba. The excuses of only hearing the side of the dictatorship should be a shame for this international organization.

Shashika Wijesinha .S.
August 07, 2014

Good approach...

August 11, 2014

Thank you.