Yvette Natta was only 4 years old when her father died. From a small village in Northern Benin, West Africa, her mother wasn’t able to provide for her and her brother. Young Yvette was welcomed at the SOS Children’s Village in Natitingu that same year.
“I spent my whole life there, but I would still go see my biological mother during the holidays,” recalls Yvette, who is now 22 years old.
Yvette has been an incredibly bright student since a very early age. The best of her class already in elementary school, she was determined and committed to embark on an ambitious journey that would have taken her far from where she started.
“I learnt my values at SOS Children’s Villages. When you come from an underprivileged background, you know that you have been given a second chance, and that’s why you have to work hard and accomplish things in life. It is my obligation to succeed,” says Yvette, while arranging her university books on the shelves of her studio apartment in the heart of Benin’s port city, Cotonou.
Yvette was born in a rural community where being a child wasn’t always easy. Corporal violences against children in school and in households was a widespread practice. She was only 9 years old when she became class representative and member of the school executive committee and started to sensitise children and adults on issues of corporal violence.
“SOS Children’s Villages taught me about children’s rights, and this is why I have become aware and sensitive about certain issues affecting children,” she says. “ I have never been scared of talking to adults, and I think this is because, at the SOS Children’s Village, we were always free to express ourselves and to communicate openly.”
In 2012, on the International Day of the Child, Yvette and other young children’s rights advocates organised and led advocacy activities with local authorities in the Atakora district, in northern Benin. They asked for financial support and school materials for students in the region and Yvette’s speech was broadcast on TV.
In 2020, with the support of SOS Children’s Villages, Yvette and another youth ambassador developed a project for the protection of children’s rights during the Covid-19 pandemic. The project was submitted to Youth Power (an international youth empowerment program sponsored by USAID), and was eventually selected and financed.
“With the help of SOS Children’s Villages, we were able to educate 2,500 young people in different Benin communities about the risks of Covid-19 and ways to reduce them. We could also distribute hygiene kits.”
Youth employability at the heart of her social engagement
Today, Yvette’s children’s rights advocacy focuses primarily on youth employability. “Now that I am a young woman, I face the fact that children need to become autonomous and learn how to do so.”
In 2017, Yvette participated in the international launch of YouthCan!, an SOS Children’s Villages-led program that promotes youth entrepreneurship globally. She went to Addis Ababa to represent Benin at the inauguration conference, where she gave a speech on the challenges that children in Benin face to find jobs.
“Seeing that my engagement was obtaining international resonance was special. People were listening to me and not only in my community or district. One kid at the event told me that I was a model for him, and it touched me. I would love to bring my voice even farther away,”she recalls, proudly.
Yvette’s ambition is now to talk in front of the high representatives of the United Nations: “This would mark the beginning of a real change for millions of children in my home country Benin.”
The sky has no limit
After her Master’s degree, Yvette is planning to work for Deloitte, the consulting firm. She is already working on her resume to make sure that, once again, her ambition is fulfilled and her dreams will come true.
“I am who I am today thanks to what I have learnt at SOS Children’s Villages. They have been giving me hope and encouraging me at all the important stages of my life,” she concludes.