Language can be a barrier to young people leading development in their countries. Alida Kirezi, a translator from Burundi for the Youth Power campaign, is working to change that.
Young people from Burundi face the same development challenges as other African youth. While the literacy rate is 67.2% in my country, quality education is very hard to access, fueling the unemployment rate as most students and graduates fail to secure jobs. This means young people who have access to education must stand with other young people by supporting them with their skills and expertise.
Burundi’s official languages are “Kirundi” and French. Although Burundi is a member of the East African Community, where the official language is English, so many young people from my country rarely use English.
When I first heard of Restless Development’s Youth Power campaign, I realised it could empower many young people who do not speak English as their first language.
Language can be a great barrier as every action starts by communication. Language barriers can reduce access to information for many young people – information that can increase their skills, and motivations and confidence to take action on issues that affect them. Language barriers stop them being involved in decision making spaces at all levels. I have seen many young people who are illiterate, or dropped out of school, being left out simply because global conversations are in languages they do not speak.
This was my motivation for joining the Youth Power campaign as a volunteer translator. I wanted to use my skills to increase participation of traditionally excluded groups of young people, who do not speak or understand English, but are passionate about turning the Global Goals into reality in their countries. I translate campaign resources from English to French, using my language skills so that other young people can lead effective campaigns. Translating can help young people access the information they need to get campaign messages quickly and take action confidently.
This work has helped me learn how to do advocacy, organise campaigns and how to lobby decision makers. I’m also a coordinator of a women-led organisation in Burundi, so these skills are helping me to prepare for future campaigns and advocacy initiatives that I will lead.
Young people are essential in efforts to achieve the Global Goals – they must be fully involved at every stage of making these Goals a reality. Breaking language barriers and increasing access to knowledge is the first step. Young people like me must use their skills and expertise to empower other young people to lead development around the world – this is the only sure way that the global goals will be achieved by 2030.