A new era of bold youth shaping our own future by Naadiya Moosajee
Over the last three months, I have been privileged to travel across four continents for various projects involving youth. My adventure started in Kenya, where we were are preparing to set up a sister organisation to SAWomEng, developing female engineering talent in the country starting at a high school level, together with our partners, Unilever. In most of our meetings, I found Kenyan youth to be doing something entrepreneurial on the side. I discovered social entrepreneurs, who gave up on government support and realised that they needed to create change for themselves. It was the same sentiment I experience a few weeks later in Brazil, where I was honoured to be part of YouthActionNet global fellows retreat.
As a 2009 alumni of the YouthActionNet program, and now IYF board member, I got to spend a few days with 20 social entrepreneurs under 30 who were changing not just their communities but their countries in amazing ways. From holding governments accountable in Mexico to entrepreneurship training in Singapore and revolutionising the healthcare system in Uganda, these 20 young people were bold and dedicated to realising their vision. They brought such a passion and optimism to the room, that I found myself inspired to do more, and think of more ways I could make the world a better place. I found myself having a touch of envy at not being able to experience the YouthActionNet program as a fellow each year, and being able to gather with inspiring young people, who are changing the world.
After a renewed energy brought about by the YouthActionNet retreat, I travelled to Turkey and then finally onto Paris for the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum. More than 200 young people from around the world gathered for three days to discuss a strategy for youth to be adopted by UNESCO. The forum designed by youth for youth had many different side panels and discussion, as well as a diverse theme range, including social entrepreneurship, social inclusion, skills development and dialogue. What struck me was the determination of young people to be proactive partners in projects working with young people around the world, instead of just being beneficiaries. Furthermore, the delegates formed a committee to hold UNESCO accountable for implementing a strategy, ensuring that their ideas become reality and the strategy gets approved at the annual conference. I found young people wanting to develop their skills, and was fortunate to host a “soft skills workshop for engineers” for the UNESCO Engineering and Science initiative. The workshop focussed not just on being able to network, and debate important topics, but also on the issue of fracking and the effects it has on our environment balanced with our need for energy. The forum was about sharing stories, collaborating and creating a strong youth voice, and ensuring that the political leadership not just listens, but takes action.
As I flew back home to South Africa, I reflected on all the people I had met from different races, religions, nationalities, languages, but all unified in their bold approach to create a sustainable future for young people across the world today, and into the future.