Youth at Risk

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During the last few decades, the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia went through a radical and painful economic transformation after the fall of communism. Under the previous authoritarian regimes, the state provided employment and social services to everyone. Political and economic liberalisation diminished the role of the state in society and often removed the safety net that it provided - particularly for young people. While many of the countries of this region have enjoyed democracy and civil liberties since the early 1990s, social challenges that did not exist before are taking a toll on their young people. This age group is disproportionately affected by poverty, unemployment, underemployment, the HIV epidemic, inadequate education systems, lack of security and human rights abuses, international migration and the lack of space to participate in civic and political activities. These issues do not impinge on all young people to the same degree. Minorities, young women, the poor and the disabled are particularly susceptible to these problems. The lack of recognition of the special challenges that confront young people and the scarcity of data on this particular age group have rendered it difficult to formulate youth-specific policies. This exhibition has been developed and curated by the United Nations Population Fund’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia with the aim to give voice to vulnerable youth whose stories might not otherwise be heard. These youth are vulnerable due to their socio-economic status, lack of employment opportunities, gender or lack of access to quality schooling. In other cases, they may be at risk of violence or HIV infection, or belong to a minority ethnic or sexual group. They are young girls who are at risk of becoming pregnant while young, or youth who struggle to raise the children they bore as adolescents. The United Nations Population Fund is committed to working with governments to realise the rights of young people and to provide a space and a voice for youth perspectives to be heard.

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