August 12, International Youth Day, presents all of us with an opportunity to celebrate and promote youth engagement in societies around the world. As the UN agency UNESCO says, “More efforts are needed to raise awareness about the importance of youth civic engagement and its benefits to the individual and to society, including for sustainable development as well as resilience and wellbeing.”


The UN defines the worlds’ youth as the age group between 15 and 24 years old, making up one-sixth of the human population. Although more than 4 million youths go abroad to study each year, 74 million more are unemployed and also not in school. When youths are engaged in their communities, they and society both benefit. Skills training and community programs can be expensive for countries with limited resources, but in the end it will cost even more not to provide this societal support.

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Vivian Onano 1Ten years ago Vivian Onano was a student at Starehe Girls Centre and School, a National High School in Nairobi, Kenya. Today she regularly participates in United Nations meetings in New York. She has come a long way from her arduous childhood in rural Kenya because of the support of others and her own hard work. Among other roles, Vivian is now a Young Leader for Women Deliver, an Education Spokesperson for Moremi Africa, and a member of the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group. In this capacity Vivian speaks with passion at the UN about issues that affect youth.

Ezeonu, Nzuzi, Onano, Stoner2

Left to right: Amarachi Ezeonu, Paola Nzuzi, Vivian Onano, and Jean Stoner at the UN

Jane Soita, SNDdeN, Vivian’s teacher and supporter, continues to teach at Starehe. Jane says, “The girls here in school are inspired with what those who have gone before them can do. They are also working so hard to pass their high school exams so that they can join Universities. Vivian’s presentation at the UN has had a positive impact on the young ones here in school.”

More about Vivian:

Read her impressive biography: Onano

View her keynote address in May 2015 at the UN World Programme of Action for Youth – her part begins at 23:30:

Follow her Huffington Post blog:

Activism is my rent for living on the planet.
Alice Walker