Global Geneva president Veronique Barbey presented the three awards, which consist of travel grants, at a special panel on the challenges of writing for young people at the Morges Book Festival (6-8 September, 2019). Nearly 40 high school students from Swiss schools participated in the competition. “What this initiative has shown is that there is not only rising writing talent among young people, but that young people are reading,” she said.
Barbey added that with more people now aware of this initiative, the hope is that it will expand not only to other Swiss schools but also globally. Global Geneva has had approaches from mainly international high schools ranging from Frankfurt to Bangkok expressing interest, but also from institutions in such far flung locations as Liberia, Nairobi and Los Angeles. “The quality of the writing presented is really quite impressive,” she said. Furthermore, she noted, “these are young people who are profoundly interested in key global issues.”
The three laureates were: Australian Maxine Rechter of the International School of Geneva (1st Prize: 1200 CHF Travel Award) for her story on female circumcision, The Price of Purity; Senegalese American Mohamed Diagne, also of the International School of Geneva (2nd Prize: 750 CHF Travel Award) for his story Kyanite; and American Nicholas Machen of the British School of Geneva (3rd Prize: 500 CHF Travel Award) for Capital.
As part of Global Geneva’s commitment, all entries were edited and commented on by professional editors from around the world who offered suggestions to the students on how to improve the writing. “It is important to encourage young people to improve their writing skills but also to read more,” said Global Geneva editor Edward Girardet. “It is also important to engage them along professional lines and to help promote their curiosity in critical planetary issues, such as the climate crisis, humanitarian response, human rights, the environment…”
For Girardet, the importance of helping youth hone their writing skills is a crucial component of this journalistically-linked educational initiative. “This is what teachers and parents, and particularly university professors are telling us,” he maintained. “More and more high school students are arriving at the college level with poor writing and even reading capabilities. This is a huge issue and we should be concerned.” (See also our editorial for the Fall, Sept-Nov. 2019 print and e-edition)
The Youth Writes programme is not seeking to turn all young people into journalists. However, all school leavers, whether they are planning to become doctors, lawyers, bankers or electricians, need to know how to write well and to develop strong communications capabilities.
As Girardet points out, youth also need to become more aware of the need for trusted and quality journalism in an age of rampant false news and disinformation, particularly in social media. “Unless we engage young people now, there will be no one left to support real journalism, which is crucial for democracies to thrive,” said Girardet. “It is also vital to link education with reporting.”
For many of the Global Geneva network, which consists of some 2,000 journalists, editors, photographers, film-makers, cartoonists and other media specialists world-wide, the quality of the entries by the Youth Writes competitors has proven encouraging. Numerous stories, articles or podcasts proved to be exceptional and often highly imaginative. Global Geneva also held its first Youth Writes workshop in March, 2019, at the Ecogia International Red Cross Training Centre in Versoix, Switzerland. This is also part of the magazine’s efforts to help highlight key issues of the International Geneva – and Switzerland – community worldwide.
Depending on funding, Global Geneva is hoping to expand this initiative across Switzerland in 2019/20 with more workshops, but also the creation of Youth Writing and Journalism Clubs, and by collaborating more closely in English and in French with international and state high schools. It also hopes to expand the programme globally and include more participation by United Nations agencies and NGOs. Global Geneva is further developing other reporting initiatives, notably ‘Global Journeys’, aimed at bringing young people in direct contact with the need for quality reporting from the field.
Global Geneva is in the process of approaching various Swiss and international foundations, sponsors and others willing to support its educational approaches. In the same vein, it is seeking to work with the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, Global Compact companies and other private sector institutions interested in the need for more educationally-linked public interest initiatives involving young people.
All award entries are published both online as individual articles as well as in the Fall Sept-Oct 2019 print and e-edition of Global Geneva Magazine. If your school or institution is interested in being involved and/or would like to receive complimentary print copies please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or your organization would like to support this or other Global Geneva initiatives in the public interest, please contact: The Editors, Email: email@example.com
The Global Geneva Youth Writes 2019 Young Journalists & Writers Programme is funded by the Alcea Foundation, Lausanne.