August 12 is International Youth Day

International Youth Day is commemorated every year, spotlighting youth issues and celebrating young people as partners for change. One in ten of the world’s children live in conflict zones, and 24 million of them are out of school. Increasingly, youth are becoming isolated in society. This year, the focus of International Youth Day is ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’.

Youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves. While there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth. Safe spaces such as civic spaces enable youth to engage in governance issues; public spaces afford youth the opportunity to participate in sports and other leisure activities in the community; digital spaces help youth interact virtually across borders with everyone; and well planned physical spaces can help accommodate the needs of diverse youth especially those vulnerable to marginalization or violence.

Ensuring that safe spaces are inclusive, youth from diverse backgrounds especially those from outside the local community, need to be assured of respect and self-worth. In humanitarian or conflict prone settings for example, youth may lack the space to fully express themselves without feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome. Similarly, without the existence of safe space, youth from different race/ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation or cultural background may feel intimidated to freely contribute to the community. When youth have safe spaces to engage, they can effectively contribute to development, including peace and social cohesion. (United Nations, 2018) 

Cockburn Libraries endeavour to provide safe spaces for youth in the local area. Do you have any suggestions to improve these spaces or encourage more youth to use them?

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