September 19, 2016
The Young Leaders Initiative will become a flagship of the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and a part of the Global Youth Partnership for SDGs, launched in 2015.
As part of its efforts to better reach and engage young people around the world as well as recognize their significant contributions to improving the world around them, the United Nations has launched a new initiative to bring together youth talents and Sustainable Development Goals.
The initiative, called the UN Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals, consists of 17 young change makers picked from a pool of more than 18,000 applicants from 186 different countries.
The unveiling comes against a backdrop of increasing efforts by the UN to tap into global youth enormous talent pool and potentials to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Kenyan native Rita Kimani, 25, who co-founded FarmDrive, Samuel Malinga, 27, founder of Sanitation Africa, and Samar Samir Mezghanni, 28, author and prolific writer, are the three young African entrepreneurs among the inaugural 17 young leaders recognized for their contribution and leadership efforts in helping to try to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The SDGs, which were adopted by world leaders during last year’s UN General Assembly meetings in New York, officially became effective on January 1.
The goal over the next 15 years is to mobilize countries’ efforts to promote the 17 SDGs adapted from the 2030 agenda, which includes ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and tackling climate change, as a vehicle for social change and development, prosperity and economic growth, universally.
UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, who announced the names of the UN 17 Young Leaders Monday at the Social Good Summit in New York, said the initiative serves as a great reminder of the potential of enormous talent pool of “so many young people around the world, who are making immense contributions to peace, development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Ms. Kimani, 25, a computer scientist from Kenya established FarmDrive, a social enterprise that connects unbanked and underserved smallholder farmers to credit, after witnessing her mother, along with other families in her community that depend on agriculture for their livelihood, struggle to provide sustainable income to support their individual families due to lack of access to credit.
Using her experience as a computer scientist, she developed a platform based on mobile technology, which enables farmers to generate comprehensive credit portfolios that will provide them with access to affordable financial services by keeping track of expenses, productivity, and revenues within one platform.
So far, 3000 farmers have registered and benefited from the platform, and 400 farmers have received loans through FarmDrive.
Kimani and her partner are in the process of scaling up the platform to reach Kenyan farmers living in rural Kenya.
Tunisian-Iraqi writer Mezghanni who holds two World Records in the Guinness Book as the youngest writer in the world. A prolific writer, she has written and published over 100 short stories for children, including 14 books. She uses her talent as a leverage to motivate and advocate for youth empowerment in Tunisia and around the world.
Systemic poor sanitation and waste management, lack of access to good sanitation services in remote and inaccessible communities throughout Africa are not only major health hazards, they have major negative economic impact for nations across the continent.
These were the issues that 27 year-old Malinga, who grew up in a shacktown in Uganda’s capital Kampala, decided to tackle when he founded Sanitation Africa to provide access to decent sanitation services for people living in remote and inaccessible communities throughout the country.
The issue was personal for him having grown up Naguru, an area of the country considered slum, he experienced first-hand the systemic problem due to unsanitary environment that often occur within unplanned settlements as a results of urbanization and congestion in cities, which lead him to develop a low-cost but highly hygienic toilets which convert sludge into cooking briquettes and agriculture manure through a full-cycle sanitation system.
“It’s so painful to me that children die of preventable diseases brought about by simple sanitation issues that we know how to resolve,” says Malinga. “Coming up with a solution has made me very proud to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 6.”
Malinga’s sanitation company has built and distributed more than 350 toilets to households in remote and inaccessible communities throughout Uganda.
According to the UN, over 95 percent of the population in Uganda uses latrines and septic tanks, and 60 percent of these pits are consistently full in Kampala.
The UN Young Leaders SDGs initiative, similar to one of U.S. flagship initiatives and foreign policy agenda created by President Obama administration, which is geared towards connecting and engaging youth to become active participants in their communities to help spur needed socioeconomic development as well as develop democratic institutions, will also contribute to a brain trust of young leaders supporting initiatives related to the SDGs.
In welcoming the youth, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the inaugural class of 2016 17 Young Leaders “are a testament to the ingenuity of youth and their exceptional leadership and demonstrated commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The Young Leaders Initiative will become a flagship of the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and part of the Global Youth Partnership for Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015.
The young leaders, ages 19-30 years old, comes from diverse backgrounds and careers, from food to fashion to micro-finance, representing every region in the world.
The other 17 Young Leaders recognized are Safaath Ahmed Zahir, women’s rights activist, Shougat Nazbin Khan, founder, H.A. Digital School & College, Caroline Median, Co-founder and CEo Apruppa, Lutfi Fadil Lokman, founder and CEO Hospital Beyond Boundaries, Rainier Mallol, co-founder and President AIME, Edda Hamar, founder, Undress Runways, Tisha Shetty, founder and CEO, SheSays, Anthony Ford-Shubrook, Youth ambassador, AbleChildAfrica, Vincent Loka, Co-founder and CTO WateROAM, Samar Samir Mezghanni, Author, Jake Horowitz, founder and Editor-at-large, Mic; Ankit Kawatra, founder and chairman, Feeding India, Karem Jerath, Scientist and innovator, Nikki Fraser, Indigenous Rights activist Tere Gonzalex Garcia, founder and president, Liter at Light Mexico.
The UN Young Leaders for the SDGs will come together as a community to support efforts to engage young people in the realization of the SDGs both through strategic opportunities with the UN and through their existing initiatives, platforms and networks.
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