Focus on Safe Spaces for Youth - International Youth Day 2018

Joint UNICEF-UNFPA Blog for International Youth Day, 2018

International Youth Day (August 12) this year focuses on “safe spaces for youth” – physical and virtual spaces where youth can safely come together to engage in activities related to their needs and interests, to participate in decision making and to express themselves.

UNICEF and UNFPA are coming together on this International Youth Day because we believe that investing in the well-being, health and education of young people is not only a matter of upholding their rights, but a pathway to sound development as defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals which were adopted by all countries in 2015.

However, in order for youth to fully develop their potential, youth need access to a quality education, to speak up and share their opinions, and to earn an income; none of which is possible unless youth feel safe and free from violence. Yet, consider the chilling data:

  • Globally, nearly one in three adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 (84 million) have been the victims of emotional, physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by their husbands or partners. Homes are not always a safe space for youth.
  • Worldwide, close to 130 million (slightly more than 1 in 3) students between the ages of 13 and 15 experience bullying at school. 732 million (1 in 2) school-age children between 6 and 17 years live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited. Schools are not always a safe space for youth.
  • In a 2016 global poll of 10,000 18-year-olds in 25 countries, almost 80% of those polled agreed that children and adolescents are in danger of being sexually abused or taken advantage of online. The internet is not always a safe space for youth.


The available statistics concerning young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina are also startling:


  • 56% of young women (18 to 24 years of age) are subjected to some form of violence. In 72% of cases, intimate partners are the perpetrators of violence against women. Only 17% of women who have experienced violence have tried separation, divorce, leaving the household, and only about 4% tried counselling. The rest of the women who have experienced violence remain living with their perpetrators.
  • 9% of female teenagers aged 15-19 have already been married, while 23% of them have already become mothers. 67% female teenagers aged 15-19 who  married and became mothers have completed only primary or lower school education. Low educational attainment makes these young women inactive in labour market and susceptible to poverty and gender based violence.


So what needs to be done to create safer spaces for youth?

  • Governments at all levels and CSOs should support comprehensive, coordinated multisectoral initiatives to create safer spaces.
  • Governments should enact and enforce legislation to protect children and youth from all forms of violence, including corporal punishment in all settings, even in the home, and by all perpetrators, including teachers and other school personnel.
  • All actors in BiH should challenge and change the systemic societal beliefs and attitudes that perpetuate violence against youth, including gender-based violence, in any setting, including the home, school, community or online.
  • Schools should initiate programmes to prevent and respond to incidents of violence in order to foster safer learning environments for girls and boys alike.
  • The Social Welfare system must have more trained social workers able to provide referrals, counselling and therapeutic services for male and female youth who have experienced violence.
  • The Health System must have trained professionals, offering youth friendly approaches, so that  they are accessible, acceptable, equitable, appropriate and effective for different youth sub-populations – ensuring healthy youth development.
  • Local authorities must ensure youth at risk have access to safe spaces when they are not at home or in school, with opportunities to participate in recreation and sports activities.
  • Local authorities should empower youth with the information and tools they need to report violence safely, both in person and online.

Next month, in September, the UN will launch a new Youth Strategy at the UN General Assembly in New York, as well as  “Generation Now,” an innovative public-private global partnership centered on designing and scaling-up new ways to ensure that every young person is in school, learning, training or employment by 2030.

The UN Youth Strategy and Generation Now recognize the importance of youth being supported to live up to their full potential. It requires that youth have access to services and opportunities which are critical for their development and civic participation. We call on all actors in BiH to ensure that these services are provided to all young women and men in BiH in an environment of safety, security and protection, i.e. in safe spaces that allow all young people to learn, grow, and contribute fully to BiH’s progress towards the SDGs.