UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors speak up for children, and help the world to listen to them.
Just ask 17-year-old Eva. She’s spent the past year honing her speaking and listening skills in her role as a UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador.
The Young Ambassadors are a small group of young people aged 15-24 from all over Australia, with diverse backgrounds, skills and experiences. They share a commitment to the rights of children, and previous experience engaging with children and young people.
Eva’s experiences at Girl Guides helped to give her the confidence to apply.
‘Guides gives you skills [that] help in the application process. I’d had experience being a Junior Leader, so I knew how to speak to young kids already.’
Speaking with children and communicating their rights and needs is the heart of UNICEF’s work.
In the past year, UNICEF Australia has consulted with 1500 children and young people aged 4 to 22 about their hopes, needs, and concerns.
The Young Ambassadors played an active role in this work. They conducted consultations with children at schools across Australia on broad topics, including the environment, equality, safety, well-being, and learning.
Eva visited a Guide Unit and where she spoke to children across multiple year levels.
‘We didn’t want to put words in the kids’ mouths so we introduced a broad topic and made sure everyone had their say,’ she says. ‘We wanted to make sure they were [the children’s] authentic voices, so we recorded them and transcribed what they said.’
Based on what they heard from children and young people, the Young Ambassadors will be lobbying decision-makers about what is important to children and young people. They also worked together to write a report for UNICEF Australia about their findings.
‘People should pay more attention to the treatment of young girls. It’s not always the big issues that get the news coverage, it’s also the small things that don’t make the news. Language is really important. I guess those things are the stuff I’m passionate about because I can relate to it.’
(Eva explores the way we talk about female leaders in more depth in her brilliant article for UNICEF.)
Being a Young Ambassador has helped Eva to gain new skills. In particular, Eva says that being exposed to lots of interview situations has helped her to become a more confident public speaker.
She has met with the National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, and the Victorian Children’s Commissioner, Liana Buchanan. She has also spoken everywhere from the University of Melbourne to the ABC children’s news program, Behind the News.
‘I was so nervous about it. It was not something I could have done a year ago. The support of [UNICEF] and the other Ambassadors really helped.’
Eva has some advice for anyone who might be interested in applying for one of UNICEF’s excellent youth programs.
‘If you’re applying … you need to show yourself. I haven’t done a million things – I showed my passions. Don’t be intimidated by it. UNICEF are very supportive. We all play to our own strengths.’