Not Too Young to Make a Difference: Young Leaders are Leading on the Global Goals

By Genelle Adrien

August 23, 2018

This post originally appeared on the UN Foundation blog here. 

Today’s youth generation is the largest the world has ever seen. There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24. And, they will soon be responsible for a world with rising global challenges like hunger, climate change, and conflict.

It’s challenges like these that are motivating young people around the world to take action. Not only are they raising their voices, they are also stepping up in their communities and showing that with optimism and determination, global change is possible.

One of these young people is Askadeline Malines. Askadeline is 13, plays the guitar, and loves to visit her family in the Dominican Republic. She is also passionate about fighting for gender equality, standing up for immigrants’ rights, and working to tackle climate change and poverty in her Bronx community. Askedeline is an alumnus of the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program.

An initiative of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, the Junior Ambassadors Program connects seventh grade classrooms across New York City to the United Nations and empowers students to see themselves as global citizens. Students learn about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and lead projects in their communities to help achieve them.

As a Junior Ambassador, Askadeline has given speeches at the UN, organized a carnival to promote gender equality in her neighborhood, and encouraged her fellow classmates to strive for change through the SDGs.

In Askedeline’s words, “the SDGs help us feel empowered.”

I had a chance to chat with Askadeline about her time as a Junior Ambassador, what it’s like to visit the UN, and why she’s motivated to build a better future for her community now and for generations to come. Here’s what she had to say.

Genelle Adrien: As a young person, why do you care about the Global Goals? What sparked your interest in global issues?

Askadeline Malines: I care about these global goals because they are the key to helping the world we have right now. I need to focus on these global goals and help inspire other kids to take action.

What sparked my interest was the NYC Junior Ambassador Program and the problems people all over the world were facing. I wanted to help instead of staying home and doing absolutely nothing. I don’t like seeing others in trouble and waiting for someone else to answer the call.

GA: We know you organized a gender equality event in your community. Can you talk about why SDG 5 is important to you? How can other young people help their communities strive for gender equality?

AM: Gender equality is important because it addresses most of our global goals, specifically towards human rights. We should all start with the rights of the people because when people have what they need, they are then more able to help others and the environment.

It’s a matter of using the cards you’ve been dealt. Now as a young person I have to speak out to other young people—the way for youth to strive for gender equality is to spread the word. This can be done on social media, used by billions of people, or creating a club at school to inform the broader community.

GA: How did you feel when you visited the United Nations? What does the UN mean to you?

AM: The United Nations is a place where I can be myself and fight for what I believe in. It’s a place where those who have power can listen to what I have to say and do something about it. It’s a second home to me.

The UN means so much to me because there are so many important people I can look up to, who do so much to help the world around them. It’s full of people who actually care about changing the world. The world isn’t too small for them or too large for me to make a difference.

GA: What has been your favorite part of the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program?

AM: I liked many things about the NYC Junior Ambassadors program, including simulations of UN conferences, writing letters to the mayor, hosting the gender equality carnival, and creating an event to support those we have lost in school shootings.

The program was a lot of fun and my teachers did so much to make learning fun and inspiring. Every day was another life lesson. Each day was spent together planning for the future. It was an amazing experience and it got me to the UN, so I’m very grateful for it.

GA: We know sometimes the Global Goals can feel too big for any one person to achieve. What are some small actions everyone can take to achieve them? What advice do you have for young people?

AM: A few small things we can all do as individuals would be to research the UN and the Global Goals to learn more about them. To take action is something we can’t all do alone—having an adult around or just one more person to help you can do so much. You can figure out ways to accomplish the triple “Rs” – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, more efficiently.  

Or, even more easily, just making compost for the plants in your neighborhood and teaching others about it can make a difference. My advice would be to pick one or two global goals to research, find an adult if you’re a young person like I am, or a friend to help you discuss what you want to do. We can all do something to help. You are never too small or too young to find what inspires you. Use that to move forward.

The NYC Junior Ambassadors program is an initiative of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs focused on empowering 7th graders across all five boroughs to become actively engaged with the United Nations by leveraging New York City’s unique position as host city to the UN headquarters. NYC Junior Ambassadors learn to see themselves as global citizens by using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the primary lens for understanding the work of the UN and related global issues, so that they can begin to take action locally starting in their own neighborhoods. Learn more about the program here:https://on.nyc.gov/2KGwXN9

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