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    Wednesday, August 12, 2020

    Eight young people from around the world that are making a difference today


    On International Youth Day 2020, we take a look at some inspiring young people and youth organisations from around the world that are helping to tackle global issues.


    At the International Youth Federation, we believe that young people have the drive, energy and passion to help solve today’s unprecedented global challenges.  Young people address problems like global warming, gender equality, poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic with persistence and ingenuity.


    This list is not exhaustive, meaning there are many more inspiring young activists and charitable campaigners who operate today that are not mentioned here. 


    Let’s meet some of the inspiring young people and youth organisations that are driving change in their communities.


    Achaleke Christian Leke, 26, Cameroon


    Achaleke Christia Leke, Twitter


    Achaleke Christian Leke, 26, from Cameroon, wanted to help contain and manage the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in his community. 


    He decided to act by providing hand sanitiser for his office, but when he released that sanitiser is in short supply and at double the usual price, he developed a plan to make his own following the World Health Organisation’s formula.


    Achaleke turned his office into a laboratory for making hand-sanitiser, and he is now producing and distributing the sanitiser door-to-door to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The campaign is called One Person One Hand Sanitiser, and so far they’ve produced over 10,000 bottles.


    “It’s a group of young people from different walks of life who are volunteering to get this done,” says Achaleke in an interview with the BBC


    Acheleke is the Cameroon Youth Ambassador to the Commonwealth and the National Coordinator of  youth-led civil society organization Local Youth Corner Cameroon


    Marcus Rashford, 22, UK


    Marcus Rashford, 22, is an English international footballer and Manchester United player, well known for his pace and precision on the pitch. But this year his work with vulnerable and disadvantaged UK communities has come to the foreground.


    After the UK government announced this year that it would be discontinuing meal vouchers for school children during the summer holidays, Rashford sent an open letter to the government to reverse the decision.


    “Without the kindness and generosity of the community I had around me, there wouldn’t be the Marcus Rashford you see today,” says Rashford in the open letter.


    “As a family, we relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, and the kind actions of neighbours and coaches,” says Rashford.


    Following Rashford’s high-profile campaign, the UK government reversed their decision, which means that 1.3m children in England will have the chance to claim free school meal vouchers during the COVID-19 pandemic this summer. 


    During lockdown Rashford has partnered with food distribution charity FareShare, helping to provide three million meals a week to vulnerable people in the UK during the pandemic. 


    Amika George, 20, UK


    Amika George, YouTube


    In April 2017 news reports in the United Kingdom revealed that students were missing school because they could not afford sanitary products.


    Amika George, 20, decided to set up #FreePeriods, a movement for affordable sanitary products for young girls and an end to ‘period poverty’ in the  UK.


    Just two years later, the UK government announced it would be funding free sanitary products in all English schools and colleges, following intense pressure from George and the #FreePeriods movement.


    George organised a protest which saw 2,000 people dressed in red, marching on Downing Street and demanding change from the UK government. 


    Following the success of #FreePeriods in the UK, George wants period poverty to be recognised as a pressing concern across the globe.


    “We are hoping to see if we can make similar change happen in other countries so that every country recognizes period poverty as something that needs to be eliminated,” says George.


    Jihye Yang, 22, South Korea 


    Jihye Yang, WeTee


    Jihye Yang, 22, is a feminist campaigner in South Korea. Yang has campaigned since the age of 16 against discrimination and sexual harassment in South Korea. 


    2019 saw large protests against a number of illegal filming cases in South Korea, which included women filmed in their homes, in toilets, on streets and motel rooms.


    Dissatisfied with the government’s lack of action, Yang went to the United Nations in February 2019, speaking at the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


    Yang also set up a feminist network for teenagers called WeTee, and her persistent pressure has brought change, with the Ministry of Education setting up a gender equality team and South Korea’s first official channel where student victims can report sexual abuse.


    There’s a lot of work to be done in South Korea, but Yang has a positive outlook. “Teenagers have been considered incompetent beings who need to be represented by other people's voices,” says Yang. “Already, a change is happening in the younger generation,” she says.


    Ndlovu Youth Choir, South Africa


    Ndlovu Youth Choir, YouTube


    The Ndlovu Youth Choir has used their choreographed song and dance to tackle disinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa. 


    The youth choir made it to America’s Got Talent semi-finals in 2019 with a number of multilingual remixes, including Toto’s ‘Africa’ and Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’.


    In response to the disinformation and speculation about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ndlovu Youth Choir composed a song based on the World Health Organisations coronavirus safety advice. 


    The song features key information in English and isiZulu to spread the message far and wide. They uploaded it to Twitter, where it was retweeted by politicians and local activists.


    The final refrain of the song calls for calm and positivity: “Don’t panic, don’t spread rumours, we will beat Corona.”


    The Ndlovu Youth Choir started out as an after-school activity and evolved into a professional ensemble, making it to the finale of America’s Got Talent with their energetic performances. 


    Now Ndlovu Youth Choir provides the opportunity for young people in South Africa to achieve excellence regardless of their background, and the young choristers’ work in addressing the pandemic is an inspiration to us all.


    Greta Thunberg, 17, Sweden


    Greta Thunberg, Twitter


    In 2019, 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s School Strike Campaign saw 4 million people join her in protesting inaction on climate change.


    Thunberg’s campaign began in August 2018 when she made the decision to abandon school and camp outside the Swedish Parliament holding a sign that read ‘Skolstrejk för Klimatet’: ‘School Strike for Climate.’


    Inspired by the fortitude of this 15-year-old activist, Swedes soon joined her outside Parliament in greater and greater numbers, until thousands of activists were camped outside in solidarity.


    Since then she has met with the Pope, addressed the United Nations Climate Action Summit and inspired a global youth movement seeking climate justice.


    Thunberg’s influence is so wide-reaching that in December 2019 she was named the Times Person of the Year at the age of 16. She joined award recipients like Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerburg, Martin Luther King Jr. and Queen Elizabeth II. 


    Thunberg continues to protest every Friday along with thousands of schoolchildren and activists in the Friday’s for Future climate strike campaign. 


    Ridhima Pandey, 12, India


    Ridhima Pandey, Twitter


    Ridhima Pandey is a climate activist of just 12 years old. Living in India, she realised the devastating effect of climate change when floods and landslides swept through her home in India’s northern Uttarakhand state.


    At the age of nine, she researched and learnt more and more about climate change, and, with her father’s help, petitioned the Indian government for failing to take action on the climate emergency.


    Pandney jointly filed a complaint against the United Nations in 2019 along with 16 other activists, including Greta Thunberg.


    She campaigns across India, speaking at schools and conferences, and she protests outside her own school on Friday’s as part of the Fridays for Future climate strike movement. 


    Jerome Foster II, 18, USA


    Jerome Foster, Twitter


    Jerome Foster II, 18, is an American climate change activist and political engagement advocate. 


    He recently spent 60 weeks campaigning for climate reform at the White House, and he has interned with John Lewis, the American politician and civil-rights leader who sadly passed away this year. 


    Foster also founded One Million of Us, which aims to inspire millions of young people to vote in the 2020 United States Presidential Election. 


    But the One Million of Us campaign won’t stop there. Foster plans to keep building the youth vote in America beyond 2020 through education and pledge-making. 


    The future looks bright for this young activist, who has received acceptance letters from prestigious US colleges Harvard, MIT and Stanford.


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