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A UNICEF Youth Advocate Looks Forward to UNGA 77

September 14, 2022

This year, three amazing UNICEF Youth Advocates will be representing UNICEF USA at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 77). Here, Youth Advocate Kyle King shares why he is excited to take part in the UNGA and the issues he is most looking forward to discussing.

You may already recognize their faces from our National Youth Council, so please say hello to our 2022 US UNICEF Youth Advocates: Ayaan Siddiqui, Kyle King and Salma Abdi. 

2022 UNICEF Youth Advocates and 2022-23 UNICEF USA National Youth Council members Ayaan Siddiqui, Kyle King and Salma Abdi. © photo courtesy of UNICEF USA

From September 13-25, 2022, they will participate in UNGA workshops, panels and speaking engagements, representing the voices of youth here in the U.S.

UNICEF Youth Advocate Kyle King shares why he is looking forward to attending UNGA, and specifically participating in the UN Transforming Education Summit: 

The United Nations Transforming Education Summit is a step towards improving the education and futures of all children everywhere and that's precisely why I want to be there.

Currently, there is a crisis in global education. There is a crisis in access, equity and quality of education being delivered to the world's children, one that has existed for years and has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And the impacts of this crisis are not just limited to education, for education is the foundation on which the future is built. It is not only a right but also how children learn to advocate for and access all their other rights. Education is necessary for the world's children to reach their full potential.

A big problem like this requires a big solution. It requires the cooperation and dedication of hundreds of governments, thousands of volunteers, and millions of dollars. It requires all nations to recognize education's immense importance and agree on a joint, achievable goal. The United Nations Transforming Education Summit is a step towards this solution, a step towards improving the education and futures of all children everywhere, and that's precisely why I want to be there.

It is young people that know what needs mending and where adult leaders are falling behind. It is the youth that know what solutions will actually change and improve the way they experience education.

And I shouldn't be alone. Youth from all backgrounds and places should be at events like these. Because it is the world's youth who know the shortcomings of education the best. It is young people that know what needs mending and where adult leaders are falling behind. It is the youth that know what solutions will actually change and improve the way they experience education. In all decisions, but especially in decisions about education, youth need to be involved because it is their future and their present that is being decided.

Although there are many issues to tackle and discuss, I’m most excited to address the intersection between mental health and education. In my view, mental health is a unique threat to education for a few reasons. First, it is a prerequisite to accessing education. When a child is anxious or depressed or struggling in some way, they can’t engage in learning quite the same way. If their mind is pulled in hundreds of directions, they can’t focus and absorb as much as they otherwise could. Thus, although seemingly unrelated, proper mental health is fundamental to education and mental health care should be a hot topic.

Moreover, mental health is a barrier to education that can affect anyone, regardless of country, class or beliefs. Finally, mental health is often invisible, able to hold youth back without ever being noticed or acknowledged. As such, solutions must be student-focused — kids must be aware of and able to access the resources themselves because they may be the only ones who can see the problem. 

Therefore, I invite you to take a look at the different events going on this week – some may even allow you to tune in virtually!

Top image: The 2021-22 UNICEF USA National Youth Council at a tour of the United Nations in June 2022. © UNICEF USA