With a strong commitment to engage with and support the next generation of readers and writers, PEN Centres run various Youth and Education Programmes around the world in collaboration with PEN International. By 2014, over 25,000 children and young members of different communities around the world, had been reached by the PEN Centre programmes in over 370 schools. In 2014 these programmes continue to expand to new locations, spanning from Bolivia to Guinea, Nepal to Nigeria, Sierra Leone to Zambia, with over 30 locations in five world regions.
The activities of the PEN Youth and Education Programmes include summer school sessions on human rights, creative writing workshops, establishing school libraries, organising teacher training workshops, running debating societies, setting up university student PEN Centres and projects on translating stories for children into minority languages. These projects aim to offer wholesome education, development of critical thinking skills, access to education in the mother tongue, and social inclusion and community access to reading and writing. The activities for children and the youth further benefit the communities around them as the experiences are shared and passed on to friends and family members.
PEN’s education and youth programmes contribute to our policy of promoting quality of education, access to education (in mother tongue and in general) and human rights education. PEN advocates for these priorities at the United Nations – through the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) agenda – and with regional and national governments. Please read our recent statement outlining our education priorities for girls at the UN Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2014 or you can watch PEN’s speech here.
Furthermore, PEN incorporates youth into their agenda through the New Voices Awards, an annual platform for young and emerging writers to get their voices heard through a literary competition. New Voices is directed to unpublished young authors and the competition receives entries from various locations, nominated by the local PEN Centres around the world. The winners are announced at the annual PEN International Congress. In 2014, the Congress is hosted by Central Asia PEN and will take place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, between the 29th of September and the 2nd of October. To read a recent interview with 2013 New Voices Winner, Masande Ntshanga click here.
What brings these various fields concerning young people together is the all-encompassing aim to provide everyone with tools and platforms to freely and creatively express themselves –giving voice to the youth!