Young democracy in action in Northern Ireland

Derry Guildhall, which held the recent Your Say youth democracy event By Udit Kapoor - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

If you’re looking for the embodiment of young people and democracy, then you need look no further than the youth of Derry and Strabane in Northern Ireland.

More than 100 youngsters from all over the region have taken part in what the council called ‘a special engagement event’ – a platform where youths and young people could share their views on children’s rights and speak directly to policymakers.

As part of Derry City & Strabane District Council’s push towards gaining UNICEF UK Child Friendly City and Community status, it’s Your Say event at the city’s Guildhall was a vital step forward, bringing young representatives of youth organisations from across its electoral areas.

Patricia Logue, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane, and Chris Quinn, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People were among the high-level dignitaries with whom the young people could get into discussions with.

‘Empower youth to have a direct impact on decisions taken’

A Q&A session with local politicians also gave youth the chance to highlight various issue they’d like addressing, while also learning about how the democratic process can have a positive impact on their lives.

The young people also received an update on the council area’s bid to achieve UNICEF UK Child Friendly status which is now in a 2 to 3 year Delivery phase.

Mayor Logue said: “The Your Say event at the Guildhall was a brilliant way to empower our youth to have a direct impact on the decisions that affect them. I was delighted to hear from the young people who spoke eloquently and passionately about what is important to them and showed a genuine interest on becoming more aware about their rights and how we can shape a better future for everyone in our city and district.

“This event was a key milestone in our Council area’s journey to achieve the internationally recognised Unicef Child Friendly status where we are striving to create a community that all young people have a meaningful say in and truly benefit from the local decisions, services and spaces that shape their lives.”

Commissioner Quinn added: “I was honoured to be invited to this event and engage directly with young people who have shared their views on the issues that matter to them. As Commissioner, it is my job to listen to the views of children and young people and use my powers to promote their best interests. It’s important that they know their rights and my role in protecting them.

‘It’s important they know their rights’

“This event has been truly inspiring, the impact of knowing your rights can be lifechanging, and I look forward to hearing more about Derry City and Strabane District Council’s journey towards being a Child Friendly Community.

Sophie Feeney, a member of the North West Ministry of Youth, said that young people such as herself in attendance had appreciated the opportunity to highlight the issues they face as young people.

““This was a really big event for us as young people because it allows us to engage directly with decision makers and they can hear some of the issues we face as young people when it comes to our rights – and it challenges them to take some action to help address the issues,” she said.

Click here for more on Derry & Strabane’s campaign to achieve UNICEF UK Child Friendly City and Community status.

Click here for more on UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative.

Author: Simon Weedy

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