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Photo: Rahel, Project coordinator at the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students making a presentation ©UNDPEritrea/Elizabeth Mwaniki

The National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) hosted a panel discussion event under the International Youth Day (IYD 2018) theme “Safe spaces for youth” on 25th September 2018. The celebration brought together high school and university students, artists, cyclists and working youth to deliberate on safe spaces.  The 2018 theme focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities. SDG 11 emphasizes on the need for the provision of space towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization.

Cycling events were held on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd September 2018 in Asmara, to kick off the International Youth Day celebrations. The events were organized by NUEYS in partnership with the cycling federation of Zoba Maekel, UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF. Cycling teams from different clubs participated in the competition in the following categories: Men mountain race (teams A, B and C), women mountain race and women general race.

During the cycling event NUEYS Chairman Mr. Saleh Ahmedin said that the theme of this year’s IYD is significant to youth since they play an important role in national building and development. He congratulated the winners and urged the youth to engage in sports and adopt healthy lifestyles.

Evan Mhireteab, Noel Habteab and Isaiyas Fissehay won gold medals for mountain cycling men competition. Eden Ghirmay from Gala Nefhi and Eden Tesfamichael from Arag club, both 16 years of age, won gold medals for women races. They were both inspired by their elder siblings and developed a keen interest in the sport. They attributed their win to discipline and intensive training - 24 hours every week. For 22-year-old Zinab Faxum, cycling has been her passion for the last 5 years. Her participation in 50 competitions has imparted wisdom to share with the youth “I would encourage young people to take up cycling sport, it is fun, and they can represent our country in global competitions,” she said. 

While delivering the Resident Coordinator’s speech, UNFPA Eritrea representative Dr. Ibrahim Sambuli said that the society had the power and the responsibility to ensure that every boy and girl make a safe and healthy transition through adolescence into responsible adulthood. He added that “The Government and the UN collaborative initiatives on youth issues promotes youth leadership and participation. Efforts are geared towards enabling young people to develop life skills and knowledge to make informed decisions and meaningfully contribute to the development aspirations of the country.”

In one of the panel discussions, students shared their ideas on what safety spaces meant in their physical and social spaces like home, school, playground and the natural environment. They cited good practices like, keeping good company, keeping the environment clean, good behaviour at school, holding conversations with their peers, parents and teachers about decisions and issues that affect their lives.

The highlight of the day was the message from young Selam Amare (15), a student at Asmara Comprehensive Secondary School, who gave six points to ensure safe environment for youth: Educate everyone; promote reproductive rights for women and girls; combat violence against women and girls; give advice to youth; choose good friends; influence people; and lead by example.

A dialogue by youth representatives from NUEYS, National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW), Ministry of Housing, Land and Welfare (MoHLW), Ministry of Education (MoE) and the UN examined the role played by their organizations in creating safe space for youth. They all concluded that youth need spaces for engagement and called for partnership with all the stakeholders.

This year, IYD sought to raise awareness on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda that reiterates the need for public spaces for youth to enable them to interact with family and have constructive inter-generational dialogue.

Photo: Mr. Saleh Ahmedin, Chairman, National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students handing over bicycles to the winners during the cycling competition ©UNDPEritrea/Elizabeth Mwaniki

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