First Batch of UN India YuWaah Advocates Appointed by United Nations in India | UN agencies mark International Youth Day, making a pact for youth centrality!
New Delhi : To inspire and gather the support for and of India’s 350+ million young people towards the Sustainable Development Goals, UN agencies in India marked International Youth Day by appointing the first-ever UN India YuWaah Advocates and making a pact for youth centrality.
The first cohort of UN India YuWaah Advocates comprises 6 young individuals from diverse backgrounds and geographies, who will inspire action for SDGs across high-level decision-making platforms. In turn, they will receive access to information, skilling, and mentorship support, and will work in partnership with external experts across UN agencies and partner networks, celebrity advocates, ambassadors, and digital influencers to amplify and foreground young people’s priorities and perspectives towards shaping the 2030 Agenda.
Representatives from UN agencies, Government of India, private sector, CSOs and young people made a pact for youth centrality and committed to the urgent need for ensuring a youth-centred approach towards the efficacy and relevance of programmes at scale, and pledge to principles of diversity, inclusion, equity, and meaningful partnership with young people.
The event was graced by Sh. Sanjay Kumar (Secretary, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports), Sh Nitesh Kumar Mishra (Joint Secretary, Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Director General, NYKS), Dr. Zoya Ali Rizvi (Deputy Commissioner – Adolescent Health, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare), along with a special video message from Sh. Anurag Thakur (Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting).
From the UN agencies in India, Mr. Shombi Sharp (UN Resident Coordinator in India), Ms Shoko Noda (UNDP Resident Representative), Mr Sriram Haridass (Deputy Representative, UNFPA India), Mr Yasumasa Kimura (Representative a.i., UNICEF India) Divya Dutt (Programme Manager, UNEP India) and Dhuwarakha Sriram (Chief of YuWaah, Youth Development and Partnerships, UNICEF India) were present.
In his video message for the occasion, Sh. Anurag Thakur, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said, “India’s youth form nearly 40% of the country’s population, thereby emerging as a significant stakeholder in determining the country’s future trajectory. Recognising young people as perhaps the foremost stakeholder, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has helmed youth partnerships and youth leadership towards furthering the nation’s development agenda, upholding the principles enshrined under SDG 17.”
Sh. Sanjay Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports stated: “The UN India YuWaah Advocates programme is a remarkable vision and facilitates meaningful youth engagement at the highest level of policies and decision making, which are spaces that have traditionally been elusive to youth voice and participation. Let us come together to ensure that the youth of this country are supported in a sustained and meaningful manner to create impact.”
Mr Shombi Sharp, UN Resident Coordinator in India, commented, “Young people have time and again proven themselves ready to meet the world’s most pressing challenges with amazing energy and creativity. I congratulate the UN India YuWaah Advocates on their appointment and look forward to helping bring their solutions for the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development to life. Today marks a new beginning, a new platform for partnership between young people in India and the UN in India for a more just, inclusive and equitable world, where no one is left behind. When young Indians lead, as the world’s largest youth generation, the world will follow.”
Mr Yasumasa Kimura, Representative a.i., UNICEF India and Co-chair of YuWaah (Generation Unlimited India) Board, said, “In the 75th year of its independence, India is becoming a global leader that will show the world how to build back better from the pandemic, and the engine of this dynamism is India’s youth. UNICEF, together with the UN in India, is proud to leverage this unique generational moment through the YuWaah movement that aims to build a nurturing ecosystem that offers young people the future-ready skills they need and the leadership positions they deserve. The launch of the UN India YuWaah Advocates is another step in the direction of meaningfully partnering with young people and mainstreaming their voice in decision-making and advocacy for our collective future.”
Profiles of UN India YuWaah Advocates
Mohammad Siraj, 26 years, West Bengal
- He founded The Pahchan Foundation, that has launched an initiative to clean up the dirty Ganga river – ‘Insan Teri Ganga Maily’.
- Through the campaign, the total collection of garbage has reached more than 4500+Kgs in 80 weeks from two Ghats (Titagarh Ghat and Glass Kal Ghat).
- His mission is to build the world’s largest environmental movement by activating individuals and governments to invest in our planet, to especially focus on SDGs number 13 ,14 and 15.
- Siraj is also a V-Force Coordinator with UNV India, and acting as West Bengal Coordinator and organising various activities on ecological sustainability.
Bhavi Barad, 25 years, New Delhi
- Bhavi is a development professional working on youth rights, agency, and leadership by creating safe spaces for young people.
- Currently, she works at Pravah, a youth development organization where she leads programs at the with young people nationally – one focused on learning loss during COVID, and the other focusing on dialogues for building harmony in communities.
- She aspires to create an inclusive, peaceful, and just society where young people, being a crucial stakeholder, participate in building a world where no one is left behind. She does this through creating experiential learning journeys where young people understand themselves better, assert their voices, engage with social realities, and lead sustainable social action projects.
Ankita Sehdev, 24 years, Haryana
- Her initiative – EXCEPTIONALS – pairs disabled and non-disabled volunteers to sensitize each other on their respective lived realities, foster allies for youth with disabilities and promote harmony.
- Through awareness sessions and interactive activities, especially with marginalised communities, Ankita and her team advocate for more equitable and accessible programs for people with disabilities. They also conducted a Donation Drive to counter the ideology that persons with disability can only receive donations, and cannot contribute. Through the SkillUp Initiative, they made persons with disability comfortable with technological skills, trained them to type and gave English-speaking classes.
- Through her change-making journey, Ankita was able to meet several young people with disability, who serve as champions for equity and access, and hopes to be a similar ambassador for people within her social sphere of influence.
- She is also a classically trained singer and has won a beauty pageant to specifically spotlight youth with disabilities. She wants to work on life skills for everyone, especially persons with disability.
Soumya Ranjan Biswal, 25 years, Odisha
- Soumya is on a mission to protect Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, which are threatened by poachers, pollution and climate change; and restoration of Mangroves, Salt Marshes and Sand dune plants.
- He trained a cadre of around 100 youth volunteers for the conservation of sea turtles and other wildlife on a sustainable and scientific basis in different districts of Odisha state. He also sensitizes local fishing communities regarding overfishing and protection of marine life.
- Through more than 250 beach clean-up activities undertaken on the nesting beaches in the area, around 15 tons of plastics, polythene bags, discarded fishing nets and other solid wastes were cleared from nesting beaches through community participation till date.
- He is driven by a sense of climate justice for the welfare of the generations that will come after him, and currently working on a sensitization programme pilot to promote organic farming in the tribal community for biodiversity conservation. His campaign was also featured in Limca Book of Records.
Mansi Thaker, 25 years, Gujarat
- One of UNEP’s Tide Turner Plastic Champions, Mansi started her environmental journey as a member of the environment conservation club initiated by her friend. The club has over 200 members from Mahua to carry out beach cleanings and maintenance on a regular basis for the past 2 years.
- Her efforts brought back Gangetic Dolphins, and masked booby to hatch their eggs. Earlier, hatching was not possible due to increased plastic pollution on the shore of beaches but now, dolphins are back and their population has started to increase day by day.
- Mansi involved local communities in coastal areas of Mahuva in beach cleaning drives and their maintenance. A system of waste collection, segregation and recycling with the help of the Forest Department was set up by Mansi and her club in order to sustain their efforts. She also works with the local community to ensure Green Ganesh Visarjan.
- She continues this work till date and makes an effort to remove all plastics from the coastal areas and discarding ghost fishing gears.
Mursal Mohammadi, 23 years, New Delhi
- Mursal Mohammadi fled Afghanistan in 2017 and moved to India, where she became the leader of a youth club in BOSCO (a UNHCR partner), where they provided opportunities for refugee youths to participate in educational and social activities.
- The club has over 200 members and offers educational and social activities on a variety of topics including SGBV, climate change, health, child marriage, and drug abuse.
- In 2021, she participated the Journalism Mentorship program by UNHCR New York where she wrote a letter about the importance of education for refugees in UNHCR GLOBAL APPEL 2021. She also participated the Visual storytelling program by UNHCR India where she did a project on ‘Home and Belongingness’, the collective book on her project – ‘Home and Belongingness’ was published by UNHCR in April 2022.
- Currently, she is a photographer and visual storyteller. Her work focuses on gender equality, refugee and displacement, and societal inequalities. She hopes to amplify the voices of her fellow refugees through the power of visual storytelling.