More than 300 young people joined forces last week in Manchester to celebrate their achievements during the city’s child-focused year-long 2022 Our Year campaign, and to look to the future as Manchester seeks to become recognised by the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) as a Child Friendly City.
Schools from across the city took part in a special event at Manchester Central that included a ‘have-a-go’ marketplace filled with stalls offering on-the-spot activities to take part in, as well as showcasing the many different opportunities and activities children and young people have been involved in during the last year.
The event also saw high school students hearing from a number of inspirational speakers from different fields who talked to them on the theme of resillience and how this had helped them in their own lives. Speakers included former Commonwealth athlete Diane Modahl MBE, owner of Social PR, Scott Thomas, inspirational young person and mental health ambassador Abz, actor Nathaniel Hall, and local young businesswoman Millie Turner, still in her early twenties, who started her own now flourishing flower business at the age of only 18.
Last year’s 2022 Our Year campaign saw the council work with businesses, community organisations, and other partners throughout Manchester and beyond to provide a wealth of opportunities, experiences and support to help the city’s children and young people grow and learn, and to help expand their horizons again post-Covid.
As well as taking part in a jam-packed year of after-school and holiday activities, children and young people of all ages also threw themselves into a wide range of other unique opportunities during the year that really gave them a chance to show off their own ideas and talents.
Opportunities included everything from standing up and speaking with confidence and conviction about the things that matter to them at events for business leaders and politicians, and doing a fantastic job programming the young people’s stage in Piccadilly Gardens on Manchester Day, to seeing their fabulous designs turned into Christmas lights that lit up the city centre during the festive season, taking part in a special schools’ climate summit, and creating a brilliant original song and music video to highlight Manchester Young Carers’ Support not Sympathy campaign – which went on to win an award at the prestigious Manchester Culture Awards.
Councillor Garry Bridges, Executive Member for Early Years, Children and Young People, said: “What our campaign last year really showed is just how much can be achieved and what a real difference we can make to our children and young people’s lives if we all work together.
“Hearing from our children and young people at the event about all the different activities and opportunities they were able to take part in last year and what they had gained from these was fantastic – their enthusiasm, spirit, and determination to succeed and learn shone through and was brilliant to see.
“We’re determined to make Manchester the very best place in the world for children and young people to grow up in, and are excited to now be taking things to the next level as part of UNICEF UK’s international Child Friendly Cities and Communities programme.”
Young people will be at the heart of Manchester’s planning and efforts to become a Child Friendly City, and the city has pledged to make sure all children and young people are involved in this.
Virginia Collins, Youth Parliament Member for Manchester, said: “We can’t be a child friendly city without young people at the heart of everything we do. The city will need our views to understand what a child friendly city looks like, and we call on everyone in Manchester to hear us and to join us in supporting the city’s commitment to making Manchester a truly child friendly city.”
Representatives from UNICEF UK were also at last week’s event and spoke to children and young people about the Child Friendly Cities programme and what it involved.
Jo Maycock, UK Committee for UNICEF’s (UNICEF UK) Child Friendly Cities and Communities Programme Manager (North and Scotland), said: “It was great to be in Manchester and to meet so many of the city’s children and young people. We’re really pleased to be welcoming Manchester onto our Child Friendly Cities programme, which we know will make a real difference to children’s lives in the city.”