UN Youth Day: Help young people fight poverty
14 August 2006
by Tran Nam Anh
Ha Noi, Viet Nam: As the world marks the United Nations’ International Youth Day on 12 August, Viet Nam’s over 40 million young people are facing major challenges. In fact, majority of the country’s poor are under the age of 24, lacking necessary skills, health services and employment opportunities to bring themselves out of poverty.
But Viet Nam is not unique, as this year’s International Youth Day theme, "Tackling poverty together: Young People and the Eradication of Poverty" seeks to highlight. Nearly one in five of the world’s one billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 must live on less than one dollar per day, and almost half live on less than two dollars per day."
In Viet Nam, this potential represents nearly half of the population, but it is a potential that is being underutilized. Despite promising education development and high literacy, skill levels are still low. Less than 25 % of the current workforce is made up of skilled workers and too many children do not complete or go further than basic education. Too many young people are lacking the necessary education and relevant training for good, productive employment, having to accept unproductive jobs with poor remuneration.
Without income-generating work, young people are left particularly susceptible to poverty, which in turn complicates access to education and basic health services, further impeding employability and increasing the risk of exclusion from society."
Viet Nam’s young people also have a pressing need for services and information about their sexual and reproductive health, including contraceptive methods and condoms in particular. With the public health system currently only addressing married couples, this leaves unmarried, sexually active, young women and men vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
When young women are able to plan the timing and number of children, they have greater opportunities for work, education and social participation outside the home. And with better informed decisions and voluntary contraceptive use, families can invest more in each child’s nutrition and health, and can reduce poverty and hunger for all members of the household.
Youth issues constitute an important element of the Government's new Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2006 -2010 and of the United Nations Development Framework for Viet Nam that recognizes the importance of youth as a key force to help Viet Nam achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The United Nations in Viet Nam has been working closely with the government and mass organizations, especially the Youth Union, on programmes to empower youth with skills and knowledge in various fields like education, employment, gender, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and social participation. The United Nations also encourages young people from diverse backgrounds to volunteer in their own communities helping their peers to escape from both intellectual and material poverty.