Young People Doing Cool Things: International Youth Day
History has shown us that young people are not afraid to shake up the world to make it a better place: Microsoft was founded when Bill Gates was just 20, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize when she was 17, and Mozart was only 8 when he penned his first symphony.
There are more young people in the world today than any point in time - there is great potential held in the current 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10-24 years old. The UN marks today, the 12th of August, International Youth Day. It sets a reminder of the guidelines for international action to improve the situation of young people so that their capacity to accomplish new milestones is made possible. In this special edition blog, we take a peek into the lives of a few young people making our world rumble with positive change.
Amelia Telford is a young Indigenous Australian known for her work as an environmentalist and climate change activist. She won the 2015 Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year and was a state finalist for Young Australian of the Year in 2015 when she was 20 years old. Currently a Seed National Co-Director at the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Amelia plays a pivotal role in engaging Indigenous youth to co-create a sustainable future for Australia.
As a young Aboriginal woman, everything I know about my culture is about looking after our land and looking after each other. They’re one in the same. But right now, it’s getting harder and harder to fulfill these cultural responsibilities. But we can't just sit by.”
Through her work, Amelia supports young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and fosters them into becoming climate action leaders. Since 2012, Amelia has travelled around Australia to train, mentor and present at conferences related to climate action, influencing more than 100 young Australians to implement sustainability projects in local communities. Amelia’s passion for environmental sustainability shines through in all her work as she continues to strive for the preservation of land for future generations.
After fleeing warzones in Syria with her family in 2013, Muzoon became a refugee in the Za’atari camp in Jordan. In this time, she stepped up to become a voice in the advocacy for a basic standard of education accessible to all, particularly for girls.
“Even as a child, I knew that education was the key to my future, so when I fled Syria, the only belongings I took with me were my school books”
In June 2017, UNICEF appointed Muzoon its newest and youngest Goodwill Ambassador, at just 19 years old. Her most recent placement in Chad, where conflicts inflicted by Boko Haram negatively affect many communities, revealed to her the parallels in the realities of young people and the struggle to obtain a quality education. With 25 million children of primary and secondary school age displaced from the classroom in Chad, her stance for equality speaks loud and clear to the progress they are yet to make to ensure education rights are achieved.
Xiuhtezcatl (shu-tez-caht) is a 16 year old descendent of Meshika or Aztec people (his name means "turquoise mirror" in the Nahuatl language) and grew up in Colorado, USA. He has been campaigning on climate change since he was six, using the medium of rap and hip-hop to portray his message, and has performed at the United Nations Headquarters, Global Citizen festivals, as well as participating in the climate change conference COP21 in Paris.
It was watching a nature documentary that got him interested in climate change.Performing a rap during a school presentation on climate change with his younger brother, Itzcuauhtli (eat-squat-lee), made him realise he could use music as a campaign tool. Xiuhtezcatl is now youth director of Earth Guardians, a global network of young activists - originally set up by his mother. He and his brother now perform at events and festivals around the world. He encouraged people during an interview with BBC to get involved in spreading awareness about climate change, “Be a poet, be an activist, be a writer, be a photographer, whatever it is you love. Use your passions to change the world.That's what I've seen excites young people - telling them to do what they love to have a positive impact."
"When young people see that their voices have power, that their actions can make a difference and the world needs them to be engaged citizens now, that empowers them to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
What can we do to become engaged citizens for the world today? Well, we can take a moment to recognise that there is no better time to start than now to resonate with the purpose that we have to play a role in something bigger. There is no better time than now to build momentum in social progress doing the things we care about. And there is no better time than now to recognise that young people often underestimate what we can do and make do with our boundless potential.
AIESEC is a global platform which empowers young people to develop leadership skills through international opportunities. In 2016, we delivered over 32,000 experiences for youth in volunteering projects for the Sustainable Development Goals in 126+ countries. Where will you go?