Youth Empowerment – June 19 2019 Young child rights advocates call for youth participation Young people speaking at the European Development Days in Brussels called on policymakers and child rights experts to give them a greater voice in decisions affecting their lives. Among those addressing leaders was a young woman from SOS Children’s Villages Zambia. Mary Kalenga, 19, grew up in the SOS Children’s Village in Lusaka, Zambia and has been an active member of the Youth Council of the SOS Children’s Village for the past two years. “We need to ensure safe places for children to speak out, find support and to know their rights,” said Mary during a panel discussion. “It is high time we get engaged and consulted on matters that affect us as children and young people,” she added. At the event, held June 18-19, young people spoke directly with European Union decision-makers including the European Parliament Coordinator for Children’s Rights, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt and the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore. Other speakers at the event, including Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, echoed calls for more child and youth participation in decisions. Mary (second from right) together with policy makers, human rights experts and other young participants Joining Forces with child rights organizations SOS Children’s Villages International shared a stand at the event with the partners of the Joining Forces Alliance (ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, Terre des Hommes International Federation and World Vision). The aim of the shared Joining Forces stand was to present the coalition to the Brussels public and preview the new report, "A Second Revolution: 30 years of child rights and the unfinished agenda," released on June 26 by the group of organizations. SOS Children’s Villages International also took part in a panel discussion organized by the European External Action Service. The panel focused on reducing inequalities through child participation. Organized annually by the European Commission, the European Development Days provide a key platform for development experts to share ideas and good practices, and facilitate new partnerships. More information about the European Development Days is available here.