Co-written by Aya Abu Sitteh, Advocacy and Communications Officer, Save the Children Jordan

Inspiring real and lasting change in the lives of children around the world should always remain high on the agenda of global leaders, and it’s the powerful voices of children and young people themselves that are most effective in helping to identify the right solutions to continually evolving challenges. Through her participation at the High-Level Political Forum in New York, Save the Children’s youth advocate Bayan Sa’adeh made sure that decision-makers across governments understand the unique situation faced by children in Jordan, and are taking active steps to meet their educational needs. Bayan tells us more about her work here:

I started volunteering with Save the Children over a year ago, working on their Youth Participatory Action Research Project. I was excited about this role because of its aim to ensure that all children and young people in Jordan are able to build a strong future for themselves through good quality education. Recently I had the opportunity to represent my peers on this issue, and to speak on their behalf at a global level about progress being made in Jordan towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The High Level Political Forum is a gathering of world leaders that takes place every year to review progress made at country level on the SDGs. I went to New York to highlight the importance of education for children in Jordan (particularly girls) and how barriers to good health and basic protection can impact their ability to access this. Children should know their rights, especially at a time when Jordan is experiencing the impact of conflict and a high influx of Syrian refugees. I was also able to advocate for the inclusion of children and young people at an early stage to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. I spoke about this during a number of sessions held at the United Nations Headquarters and at Save the Children’s office in New York.

I got to meet inspiring people from all around the world, like the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake, who I met at a youth event. I also met with other influential public figures like Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus and Helga Fogstad at an event organized by Every Woman, Every Child, on Progress in Partnership to achieve the SDGs. I was delighted to meet key figures from my own country who attended the HLPF as part of the official delegation of the Government of Jordan, like the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Mr. Imad Fakhoury, and Ambassador Sima Bahou. They all encouraged me to continue advocating for children and young people’s rights.

Children and young people are facing some unique challenges in Jordan, including a lack of access to relevant training that can help them into the labor market. Vocational training centers are not widely available within schools and universities, which means that graduates end up seeking jobs in professions completely unrelated to their degrees. I was able to address this issue at events attended by influential decision makers, like the one on education in emergencies organized by the Clinton Global Initiative. This was attended by a representative of the International Labor Organization.

After learning about the importance of the SDGs, and having the opportunity to represent young people’s interests, I believe that it’s now my role to emphasize the importance of education at all levels of society, particularly in vulnerable groups. This should include higher education and not just mandatory schooling. Decision makers must listen to young people’s opinions on education and the barriers they face so that the right solutions can be found.

If I was a decision maker I would make education mandatory from early childhood right up until university, which I believe would solve serious problems like child labor and early marriage. I would also work to make sure people are aware of their human rights and of the opportunities they have to engage in civic participation at national and international level.

My message to world leaders is that they must provide more opportunity for children and young people to share their opinions, and to make use of their incredible energy and enthusiasm by involving them in thinking about how the sustainable development goals can be made reality.