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Why the secret to protecting your human rights lies in empowering youth

Voglhuber, 2018

Young people hold the key to our future. We must give them every opportunity to thrive. This simple advice underpins all the themes at the Fundamental Rights Forum 2021.

At our last event, we heard from former Iraqi refugee Aya Mohammed Abdullah as she described her challenging nine-year journey through two war zones to the safety of Switzerland.

Aya told how, as a confused 14-year-old, she was more than once exposed to danger, facing “huge walls and people with guns” with her family.

And before she secured a role with the UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council, Aya was forced to quit school to work 12-hour days in a factory, for just € 50 a week.

But her message was clear: Do not call me a victim.

She told the attendees at the 2018 Forum: “Youth are the future in your community. And in my community. We’re the same, we are humans.

“Refugee youth need documents to access their basic rights. Refugee youth need education opportunities to make a future. Refugee youth need a livelihood so they can work and contribute.

“We don't want to be victims…We came here for a reason. We want safety. We want to be a part of this community. We don't want to be on another side.

“We don't want people to just look at us as victims. We have dreams, we have ambitions, we have power.

“Youth are the future. If you give them education and opportunity, you are giving them a future.
A bright future. You are giving them a right to work in the future.

“We can make the economy stronger, not weaker.”

Aya concluded: “Just giving us voices is enough. You’re giving us the space to express who we are and why we’re here and what we need to do.”

Ahead of this year’s Forum, we organised a series of Fundamental Rights Dialogues. They gave young people the opportunity to raise their human rights’ concerns and discuss them with Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

The questions, ideas and suggestion will be part of the discussions at the Fundamental Rights Forum 2021.

Do you have an idea on how to solve some of the pressing human rights challenges young people face?

Then join us at the Forum this October!

Participants are among the first to hear the most powerful stories from the frontline of protecting rights.

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