U-Report Belize positively impacting youth
Friday, May 10th, 2019
Launched in September 2018, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Belize’s U-Report Belize has been very active with youth around the country. The U-Report Belize program is a powerful, innovative tool that can increase youth participation in the country as it engages young people in different issues and connects them with policy and decision makers through their cell phones. The platform uses social networks such as WhatsApp, SMS (text messaging), and Facebook while taking advantage of the growing internet accessibility within the community. U-Report shares their opinions on key child rights issues and participates in decision making that can affect their education, health, safety, and well-being. This right includes making their voices heard on issues as critical as the sustainable development of the nation and the stewardship of its resources.
The overall goal of U-Report in Belize is to strengthen community-led development and citizen engagement by ensuring that issues of concern are raised, heard and acted upon by decision makers and the community at large. In the process, U-Report aims to create safe and easily accessible networks among and between adolescents, young people and decision makers, thus enhancing the knowledge and understanding of young Belizeans. Belize is the second Caribbean country in the world to develop and implement U-Report. Jamaica was the first, with just about 390,000 people, 50% of their population is comprised of young people. U-Report Belize has seen an uptick in the engagement of young people through this innovative and far-reaching tool. Having realized the successful completion of outreach activities in most secondary institutions in Belize, UNICEF has registered 1% of this young population, or 3000 U-Reporters, a feat that is hard to reach and maintain through normal and traditional methods. Through aggressive and consistent sensitization, U-Report has enabled an environment for the development of a network of empowered young people who are now better informed and more knowledgeable and aware of their rights to foster dialogue and prompt action on local problems.
U-Report Belize Consultant Mellissa Rivero told The San Pedro Sun they are exploring opportunities with Belize partners for a helpline service to supplement the U-Report platform and deliver confidential and quality-assured one-on-one counseling service on mental health, HIV/AIDS prevention, sexual and reproductive health, etc., via their mobile phone. “This service would be anonymous and confidential and will help us improve and change children’s lives for the better; this is one way to make things better,” stated Rivero.
Any young person can be part of U-Report Belize. To register on Facebook, search for U-Report Belize, click send a message, and then type the word ‘join’ and send. To register you will then have to respond to six questions. To register via free SMS on Smartphones (free SMS), send the word ‘join’ to #886. You will be sent six questions that you will have to respond to register. Once you register to the platform, you are then able to get polls, chat about the different issues young people are facing and access vital information on preventative care measures. The National Security Council- compromised of members of the Scouts Association, National Committee for Families and Children, Department of Youth Services, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Belize Powerlifting Association, Gateway Youth Center, Youth Apprenticeship Program, Smart and Digi Belize then shares the (data) with partners to influence programs and policy in Belize.
U-Report Belize believes that after a fulfilling year of progression with the implementation and advocacy of the program it can be reasonably concluded that this empowering tool is of utmost importance to the development of Belize. They state that this is not surprising, as youth from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, including those from racial minority and immigrant families, enjoy fewer meaningful opportunities to develop their skills and be competitive. This is the core reason why U-Report was established in Belize; to reach everyone, to strengthen community-led development and citizen engagement by ensuring that issues of concern are raised, heard and acted upon by decision makers and the community at large. To keep up with the work U-Report is doing in Belize you can follow them on Facebook or Instagram or visit their website at https://belize.ureport.in/.
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