Linda shares her experience of being part of UNITE 2030

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It has only been 5 weeks into the UNITE 2030 Youth Delegate Programme (YDP) and the experience has been so rewarding. Apart from learning how to be an effective leader, the programme has given us hands on experience in events that aim to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNITE 2030 is an organization that gathers the world’s most dedicated young leaders with a proven track record of working towards the SDGs. Their mission is to empower young people with the tools and skills they need to solve the world’s biggest challenges by 2030. UNITE 2030 believes in elevating young leaders and amplifying their voices. “We believe that by empowering existing young and equipping them with the right tools, we can empower them to go out into their communities and solve the biggest challenges that they face”. Being a part of GFPA Foundation for the past year has given me incredible experience in working towards the SDGs, specifically SDG 4 and 5 (Quality Education and Gender Equality).

My first encounter with UNITE 2030 was when I applied and was selected for Camp 2030 which was supposed to happen this year September in New York. Camp 2030 is UNITE 2030's first inaugural hackathon-style "innovation lab" for the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. The annual Camp 2030 Summit brings together the most talented young leaders from every corner of the globe. Campers innovate, co-create and problem solve in order to develop disruptive new solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. Additionally meeting and making lasting connections with peers from almost every industry, sector and country, engaging with global leaders and talent who actively work toward the SDGs, and make memories that will last a lifetime. However due to the current situation the camp had to be postponed to next year.

Due to the postponement of the Camp, UNITE 2030 re-introduced the YDP which I applied for and experienced the most exciting interview session. The Youth Delegate Program is a 3-month intensive leadership program that will support a 50-strong cohort of the world top young leaders to mobilize around the Global Goals in 2020 and beyond. As delegates, we play a leading role in the executing key activities within UNITE 2030, as well as receiving intensive leadership training and mentorship along the way.

One of the many reasons I decided to apply for the Youth Delegate Progamme was because I know what I am passionate about and want to achieve the younger generation in South Africa and being a part of GFPA Foundation has highly influenced the work I would like to achieve giving me insight on how this can be done. I know of ways to bring about awareness to the matter and innovative solutions to mitigate many problems faced by young people in the country; however, what always holds me back is self-doubt or the fear of failure. What the YDP has already unlocked in me is the confidence to believe in myself and my ideas. One thing the programme stresses is understanding your strengths and knowing how to integrate them to better change the world. I have also had to define my mission and vision in order to have my goals as a Changemaker are clear, so I know exactly what I am working towards. The programme has put me together with the most amazing young leaders from all over the world who are supportive, fun and driven. Seeing the work the delegates have been doing has opened my eyes to see how effective young people are and that through collaborative action, anything is possible to achieve.

UNITE 2030 aims to amplify our voices as young leaders and that is exactly what happened when we were given a platform to be heard during the United Nations’ 75th General Assembly (UNGA). I got the honour to be part of three events for UNGA. The first was “The role of technology in achieving the SDGs”, where I was one of four panelists from all over the world who are in the technology sector, and are using technology and innovation to actively achieve the SDGs. For this event, we discussed the most effective way to bench on technology to achieve the Global Goals, analysing context and the pros and cons of technology.  

The second event was “FEMROOT Africa: The importance of Females in Science, Tech and Innovation in the African context”. For this event, I collaborated with amazing women working in technology from Africa where we discussed why technology is important in developing countries but most importantly why women need to be part of this conversation. We spoke about challenges faced by women in STEM and how this stems from societal norms and stereotypes from childhood, essentially influencing the kind of careers women choose to pursue.

The third was a Quiz Day/Night (time zones saga) where we introduced a fun way of understanding the SDGs and why we are involved in the work that we do.

Finally, I hosted an event for the Youth SDG Summit, this time collaborating with women from Mexico and Vietnam under the title “Hidden Figures: Celebrating Inspirational Women in STEM”. FEMROOT Africa highlighted the challenges experienced by women in STEM or young girls who want to pursue careers in STEM and one of them was underrepresentation. Young girls are demotivated from pursuing careers in STEM because of the perceptions society has created, defining “who” should be an engineer or a scientist. Hidden Figures aimed to highlight the untold stories of amazing women in history and who are currently doing great things in the sector. For this event, we managed to get industry women from Mexico and South Africa to share their stories to inspire the younger generation. One of the challenges we put out to the audience was name at least 10 women scientists, inventors, physicists that they knew off by head. And the fact that no one was able to answer that shows WHY this needs to be an ongoing initiative. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be empower young girls so they can be anything they aspire to be.

 

We are only halfway through the programme and I honestly cannot wait to see what more I will be able to unlock within myself to be the leader I aspire to be. When I was selected to be a delegate in the programme I understood that I represent the people from where I come and I have to amplify their voices and bring awareness to the problems we face in our societies, workplace and every day lives. I represent young black girls that will not be defined by where they come from but what they can achieve.


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