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Nurturing Human Rights for a Brighter Future

human rights

Human rights are not often considered where young people are concerned. However, you can play a role in empowering human rights for young people. By doing so, you are nurturing their independence which ensures a brighter future.

Every person, regardless of age, is entitled to human rights. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights names a host of rights that all people deserve. You can find the list online and consider how it can relate to your youth work. So, being able to pass this message along to young people can help empower them in their own journey.

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    Ways to uphold youth human rights in your programs

    Incorporating human rights into youth work can be easy. For example, find ways to uplift their voice, protect their safety, and respect their autonomy.

    Here are some amazing ways that organizations can include the voices of young people. Consider adding these to your programs.

    • Establish a Youth Council to provide a platform for expression, as well as a responsibility for their community.
    • Create DEI standards to ensure that staff members are respectful and inclusive. And program participants are respectful of race, religion, political affiliations, or other identities.
    • Focus on compensating young people for their work, in turn you would be respecting their labor rights.
    • Encourage young people to participate in their own advocacy. By doing so, you are supporting their autonomy.
    • As a youth worker, advocate against the laws and policies that harm rather than help young people.

    Addressing human rights violations outside of your program

    Young people are still facing human rights violations in America. For instance, there are concerns surrounding their autonomy, safety, and well-being. Therefore, recognizing and addressing those violations is another way to uphold youth human rights. Here are some examples of common violations young people are facing.

    • Health access - Limited access to sexual and reproductive health services due to lack of resources, accessibility, and parental consent.
    • Employment discrimination - Despite safety laws, many young people face discrimination based on their age, gender, and education.
    • Limited participation - There is a power imbalance that prevents young people from fully participating and expressing themselves. They risk facing discipline from judicial systems, educational institutions, and parents or caregivers.
    • Vulnerable environments – As a basic human right young people are entitled to safe and stable living conditions. Too many young people are ill-protected in that area and that is a violation we need to address.

    Benefit of nurturing youth human rights

    To summarize, empowering the human rights of young people shows they can speak up for themselves and be advocates. Undoubtedly, supporting them in their unique perspective is crucial. You are an ally in this effort. Additionally, stand by young people, cheer them on, let them know they have the power to advocate for their rights.

    Certainly, the inequalities that young people face are not going to be erased overnight. However, helping them recognize and address violations of their rights will help them begin tackling the inequalities. And your support is invaluable in nurturing a brighter future for them.

    You can check out YIPA’s Empowering Youth Self-Advocacy training for more ideas.

    About the author

    Gaonu Yang is the grantee member advocate of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!

    To ask Gaonu a question or share your feedback about this blog, email

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