Putting the voices of children and adolescents first
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are a guide for people to have an impact on the world with small actions. With them, we can end inequalities, poverty, hunger and create a culture of peace. My favorites are SDG 4, related to quality education, and SDG 16, that promotes a culture of peace. If we all had a good education, we would all respect each other, we would help each other and we would be supportive to face these problems.
I have had the opportunity to share this passion for the SDG in the High Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development of the United Nations Organization (HLPF). It has been an incredible experience with a lot of learning.
I was able to attend the HLPF because I’m part of the Red Paz Mex, a group of young people supported by Save the Children, which works on reducing violence and fosters a culture of peace. We are working in Sinaloa, Acapulco and Chiapas. The organization of the Marists invited Red Paz Mx to participate in a meeting in the city of Queretaro, in Mexico, for preparing a declaration of young people for the HLPF. In the Red Paz Mx, the ones who were interested of attending the meeting in Queretaro expressed our interest. In assembly, my colleagues decided to vote for me, because the group felt that I was covering the profile.
After attending the meeting with the Marists, Save the Children invited me to be part of their Delegation during the HLPF and then informed me that I’d attend as part of the Official Delegation of Mexico. It was an important achievement because the Mexican government had never before invited a person under 18 to participate in the High Level Political Forum.
When I heard that, I felt very excited because I’d have the opportunity to speak on behalf of the voices of the young people of my country. I thought: “I have to do a good job so that the authorities will see that we’re able to do it and they can take us into account”.
When I arrived in New York, I went to the Mexico Mission to receive my accreditation. I was very happy because I knew it was official. There was no going back. It was a step in guaranteeing the right to participation of the young people, so our voices could be heard. There, I met the Ambassador of Mexico in the UN, Juan José Ignacio Gómez Camacho, and the Director of Global Issues, Norma Munguía, who received me very happy for having the youngest delegate in Mexico.
From that moment and for the next 10 days, I attended many very interesting events on how states are implementing the SDG and how other actors such as civil society, women's organizations or youth contribute in their implementation. But I would like to highlight four relevant moments for me.
The first one was when I participated in a panel with Marta Santos Pais. She is the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on violence against children. In that panel, four youth delegates spoke about the problems that we’re facing in Mexico and the Dominican Republic and what we propose to finish them. By the way, we were all women and young people, groups that face double discrimination. I felt very excited to share the Red Paz Mx activities and our campaign "Building Peace Prevent More", that promotes and defends the rights of migrant children and adolescents, because we believe that migration should be to improve not to regret.
I was very moved because the adults that attended were listening all the things that young people thought and felt, especially adults who defend our rights, like Marta.
The second one was when I met Jenny. She was recruited by a guerrilla in Colombia. She shared with us everything she faced when she was recruited by the FARC. One day, they were robbing a bank and she got lost from the rest of the group, she went immediately to her dad's house, but he turned her over to the police: at 13 she was already in jail. At age of 15, she was released from jail and was helped by the Bemposta organization. Then, she began her process to integrate herself back into society. When I heard this story I was shocked, it gave me a lot of sadness, but in the end I was happy because she showed that you can overcome, no matter the context in which you are living. She saw children dying, using drugs or prostitution and she went ahead with much support from Bemposta. I am very happy that after that experience, she already has a family, she is going to have a girl child and now she is studying law to defend children and adolescent’s rights, so they will not suffer what she lived.
The third event was when I participated in the launching of Save the Children's report "Still left behind?". This event was attended by representatives of the government of Bulgaria, Mexico, UNICEF, World Vision, Children's Villages, Child Fund and, of course, Save the Children. I shared the situation of violence that girls, boys, adolescents and young people face in my community, what we are living daily, but also what we propose so that this changes, because we know that we can change it. I felt very calm and very well because I realized that all the adults paid attention to me. They were interested in what young people do and what we live on a daily basis. Many people came to talk to me, to propose support for my Network or to say nice words. Everyone at the table, both the organizations and the government representatives, concluded that they will work to make real child participation during UN events.
The fourth one was when the Mexican government presented its voluntary report on compliance with the SDG to the Economic and Social Council. In front of the representation of almost all the countries of the world, the Mexican government recognized the importance of my participation and the inclusion of young people as agents of change for the fulfillment of the SDG. It was a big impact for me because we could inspire other countries to include more children and adolescents in these kind of events. I was struck by the fact that other countries in their reviews said they supported children and young people, but at least I did not see anyone under 17 years of age actively participating in the events. I think they do not invite us because they think we're immature, but it's not like that, we have many proposals and things to say.
I think it has been a great event that has allowed me to generate connections with other people, authorities and youth groups in many parts of the world. It is incredible to know that there are youth in everywhere promoting their rights, living in violent contexts and proposing solutions. I realized that I’m not the only one living this situation and not the only one working on this. I think we can make a great movement. I do believe that we have helped to create reflection among the governments that attended the HLPF, about the importance of having the voices of children and adolescents in this kind of events. Moreover, I have created alliances that can strengthen the work of young people and I have took many lessons that we will use in Red Paz Mx to continue promoting our participation as agents of change.