By Angela Walker
ROME, L’AQUILA, July 9 2009 – Sixteen-year-old’s Sanjukta Pangi’s small village of Karanjaguda, India is a world away from L’Aguila, Italy where the G8 leaders are meeting this week. Today, this young leader had the opportunity to meet personally with Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to tell him her desire for all Indian children, especially girls, to have access to quality education.
‘If I could ask the world’s leaders to prioritize one thing to help children, it would be education,” says Sanjukta, who has traveled from the Indian state of Orissa to attend the Junior 8, a youth summit being held in parallel to the G8 meeting. “I had to struggle to go to school. If I hadn’t convinced my father to let me continue going to school I would not be at the J8
Sanjukta was among 14 teen-agers between the ages of 14-17 who were selected by their peers to meet the global leaders. Young people from India, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the UK , USA, Brazil, China, Egypt, Mexico and South Africa are attending the week-long event.
The 52 members of the J8 today released a declaration and plan calling for action to address issues in education, climate change, children’s rights in the context of the global financial crisis and poverty and development in Africa. The J8 aims to make sure that the G8 and non-G8 leaders listen to young people’s voices when they make decisions that affect them.
While Sanjukta traveled to L’Aquila, her two other team members, 14-year-old Narendra Kumar from Pure Gosain, Uttar Pradesh and 17-year-old Samuel Venkatesen, from Shoolagiri, Tamil Nadu, met with members of the Italian parliament.
Both boys agreed with Sanjukta that education is the number one priority of India’s young people. Children in developed countries have time to for playing and having fun, because they take their education for granted, Samuel says. But kids in developing countries, like India, have to struggle to go to school.
“I want free, quality education for all kids in developing countries and ensuring rights for girls,” he says. “Special attention needs to be given to orphans, like me who’s lost my father.”
Samuel says he has loved being able to share his life experience this week with other teens from around the world and has learned a lot that he will take back with him to India.
“Until now, I didn’t know about child rights. Now I’m aware,” he says, a big smile lighting up his face. “I’m going to spread awareness among India’s children about child rights when I get back home to my country.”
Note to journalists: To read more about J8 2009 globally, and read this year’s and previous declarations, please visit: http://www.j8summit.com/.
B-roll of the youth participants activities during the J8 summit will be prepared and distributed through http://www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef
For additional information and to interview young people in Rome, please contact:
Tel + 39 328 6059213 or +1 917 378 2128
Tel +39 328 6059142
In India please contact:
Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Communication Officer- Media, UNICEF India