Feeling empowered to create change

On 19 June I attended the National Youth Council of Ireland’s Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Event called YouthUP Europe. It was held in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin and saw over 100 people attend. The audience was diverse as people from various youth groups, organisations, charities, public and private sectors attended.

The morning started with a welcome address from Ian Power Director of NYCI and SpunOut.  Following this, Leslie Carberry, a representative from the Department of Climate Change and the Environment spoke about the role of young people in Ireland and Europe in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Following this, there was an expert panel discussion with Stephanie Beecroft from the European Youth Forum, Niamh Garvey from Trócaire, Laura Sullivan from CONCORD and Charles Seaford, director of An Economy that Works and investigate at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity. Stephanie spoke about addressing the political imbalances facing the SDGs and how both the narrators and the story need to change to involve young people. Niamh described the holistic vision of development included in the SDGs and how youth participation needs to be meaningful. Laura mentioned how people are moved by stories that affect their lives and that greater citizen engagement is needed, which may be aided by alliances and personal narratives. Charles used shareholders as an example for lobbying regulation around the SDGs. After hearing from the wonderful speakers, there was a Q and A session, which provoked great discussion and debate.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to sit on the Youth Panel, which focused on the role young people are already playing in sustainable development. Alongside me on the panel were previous winners of the Concern debates, a youth worker who works for ECO-UNESCO, a representative from European Youth Parliament and YMCA, and members of the Polish and Latvian Youth Councils. We all told stories about our involvement with the SDGs. There was a wide array of experiences, but it was clear that we are all working towards the same goal. I described my work as an SDG Advocate for Louth, along with the stories and experiences of the Be an Advocate zone from IGGNITE2017. I mentioned the importance of making young people aware of the SDGs and giving them the tools to spread the message and tell their own story, which we, as Leaders, do at every meeting in Girl Guides. I received amazing feedback and praise for the time I, and every member of IGG take, to educate our girls and give them confidence to tackle any obstacle they may face and achieve their dreams. Following on from our panel, we had a Q and A before breaking for lunch.

The day concluded with us working in groups to create an elevator pitch which we would pose to a Member of the European Parliament. Each group had three minutes to pitch why the SDGs were important, the role of young people and why they should be considered and included at the decision-making table. Each group did this in a creative way and it was empowering to hear all their ideas.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and made loads of new friends. I left feeling empowered and more confident to create impactful change in my community and among Irish Girl Guides.