We are now half a year into the work of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, and still a lot of questions need to be answered as to how to approach these goals remain. I find myself, as a teenager, feeling slightly distant to these ambitious and comprehensive goals. While they are highly relevant for my generation, there is still little information on how a young adult can get involved. Although health care and sanitation issues might be more difficult for students to affect change, there is one goal that young people clearly can play a huge part in achieving- gender equality.
The mission of achieving gender equality is still mainly concentrated around world leaders, CEOs and global organizations. This confuses me, being that young people could and should be the very engine of this matter. Empowering women and reducing the inequalities between the genders is repeatedly mentioned as the single most important condition to being able to achieve all of the goals, which means that young people can actually make a huge difference for these seemingly distant and far-reaching goals. Although we might need to have a different approach on how to actually make a change, involving young people can be a rather effective way of achieving gender equality. Regardless of where we live, young people are involved in plenty of things where it is essential to recognize structures of inequalities. It might be in school, at our first job, doing sports, in our village, or even in our families. And by 2030, the last year of the SDGs, we will be adults, meaning that our values will be more important than ever. Undeniably, however trite, it will then be us leading change. This is why it is so important to include the young generation in such complex questions.
There are a few initiatives of engaging young people in the process of achieving the Goals. This summer, the UN launched their search for young leaders, or young change makers, to help inspire and support the SDGs. Every year between 2016 and 2030, the Young Leaders Initiative will announce 17 new inspiring young people who are leading change in the process of achieving the SDGs. These people will be selected through a nomination system on their webpage. This is a great way of enlightening young people about their possibilities of making an impact on matters as gender equality, poverty, and climate change. On their webpage, the UN express the necessity of engaging young people in the SDGs;
“Today, the world is home to the largest generation of youth in history, with 1.2 billion aged 15-24 worldwide. What’s more, this number is expected to continue to grow: between 2015 and 2030 alone, around 1.9 billion young people are projected to turn 15 years old. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we must engage a generation of young people who know about the Goals, care about their success and actively works toward their realization.”
This might seem obvious when expressed in numbers, but the fact is that young people are often excluded in important discussions and panels on global change. This is why the initiative of finding young people to lead for global change is so important, and by including 17 young role models, the SDGs might transform from merely being a political matter into an everyday-battle that is accessible for all of us.
However, not all curious teenagers are groundbreakers or leaders. This is why we must not forget what we are already exceptionally good at. Young people are experts on using an important tool of making global impact- the Internet. This might be the easiest way of getting close to and understanding the issues. Through social media, websites and other types of online communication, there are endless ways of engaging in different kinds of movements and organizations, signing petitions, or getting in touch with inspiring people. Although the Internet might not be the solution to everything, it is a great way of reaching out with limited means. This is where we really hear the voices of young people, and this is where the majority of our change making will take place. I believe in the power of young people of the Internet, and I am eager to continue to observe the wonderful initiatives and discussions showing up daily in my Facebook feed. Don’t underestimate the power of clicktivism- it will be one of the key words to modern global change making.
Half a year into the process of achieving the Goals, I am feeling undoubtedly positive, despite being young, confused and very far away from some of the issues I want to battle. There are plenty of ways for people to get engaged and make a change. I am happy that we are finally recognizing young people as an important factor in affecting global matters, and I believe that we are on the right track towards reaching our goals. Believe in young people, and they will play a big part in achieving the SDGs.