From the dense forest of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, through the Islands regions and the white sandy beaches of the Southern coast, a group of young people have come together to have their voices heard.
From the urban centre of Port Moresby, to the rural and remote areas of a truly diverse nation, it’s time to give a voice to the voice-less.
Young people account for more than half of Papua New Guinea’s population. According to 2011 Census figures, almost 60 per cent of the population are under the age of 25. Youth are important assets for the economic, political, and social life of communities. They bring new ideas and perspectives, and can be strong drivers of social change. Their growth and development is fundamental to a well-functioning society.
Unfortunately, the generation representing Papua New Guinea’s future is experiencing significant challenges that impact their ability to reach their full potential. Challenges include a lack of access to quality education, lack of basic skills to engage in the labour market, exposure to and participation in violence and crime, and teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. Social and gender roles place young women and girls at a particular disadvantage as they are often excluded from educational and employment opportunities, or are at risk of early marriage and pregnancy.
The challenges facing youth have a tremendous impact on their quality of life, and that of their families. As they are and will continue to be the majority stakeholders in Papua New Guinea, their perspectives matter and should be taken into account. Indeed, the Convention on the Rights of the Child enumerates a number of rights with regards to youth participation and engagement in decision-making processes. Yet, Papua New Guinea’s rugged topography and isolated islands makes communication and civic participation difficult. Before 2007, only 13 per cent of the population had access to mobile phones. This has now grown to over 40 per cent thanks to efforts by government and partners to open the mobile market and expand network coverage.
The expansion of mobile phones in PNG provides greater opportunity for people to connect with each other, and for young people in particular to be more engaged in the decisions and processes that affect them. Through U-Report, UNICEF is seeking to leverage the expansion of mobile phones in PNG to empower young people to speak out on issues that matter to them, encourage citizen-led development and create positive change.
U-Report relies on volunteer community members to serve as ‘U-Reporters’ to give feedback on polls and surveys, and report on issues in their communities. U-Report responses are then aggregated and shared back to the community and with decision makers to strengthen accountability and influence social change, providing a two-way avenue of engagement.
It’s incredibly easy to join. All you need to do is SMS the word ‘Join’ to 1555, follow the prompts and it’s that easy. You’re then a part of the U-Report PNG family!