Growing up isn’t easy, no matter where you’re from. The years between childhood and adulthood are the most formative years of your life: your friendships evolve, your body changes, your hopes and dreams are formed as your understanding of the world grows.
At 28, I have been incredibly lucky. I grew up in a country where I had access to primary and secondary education. I was able to play sports and pursue the career path I wanted. I’ve had access to reproductive health care and can choose to start a family when I decide. And my gay and lesbian friends are winning their fight for marriage across this country.
But 1.8 billion young people across our world aren’t so lucky. Around the world, too many young people face obstacles that make this transition to adulthood that much harder: gender equality, access to education, and health services.
Next year, global leaders will come together to agree on plans for the next 15 years of our world. These plans will set us on a path toward solving some of the greatest challenges of our time. Challenges that no matter where you’re from, you can relate to.
Tuesday marks the UN’s International Youth Day. It’s a day dedicated to celebrating today’s young people as partners in the future of our world. From making decisions and plans for the world’s most pressing issues – gender equality, education, health – today’s youth stand to gain and lose the most.
And we need to ensure that everyone understands how important it is that every girl and boy has an equal starting point to grow, learn and dream.
This is a perfect opportunity to address the needs of today’s adolescents and youth. To ignore these needs is unacceptable. And we risk letting down an entire generation. But if we want our world leaders to pay attention, we need to show them how important this is to us – we need a collection of faces and voices from across the globe.
It’s an incredibly exciting world for youth today. Recent advances in technology have opened doors to new people and places, new ways of connecting with each other, new ways of learning. And the possibilities are nearly endless.
We live in an incredible world where every girl and boy should have the opportunity to live the life they choose.
One of the most important times in my life was elementary through high school, when I fulfilled my love of dance, performing arts and singing. Without the invaluable training and experience I received in school, I wouldn’t be where I today. I would have been watching Glee from my home; I could only have dreamt of meeting Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, let alone co-starring in a film alongside them.
I have greatly benefited from access to education, gender equality, and health care to keep me alive and healthy. But all youth around the world deserve this access and opportunity.
Today, let’s put youth in the spotlight. The future of our world depends on them. So let’s make our leaders listen.
Dianna Agron is an actress and Global Citizen Ambassador.