Gemma Munday is the Stories & Brand Coordinator at Restless Development. Here she reflects on 2016, seeing us into the new year with positivity in true Restless fashion. 

2016 has been dubbed “ the worst year in the history of the universe” on social media. Ouch.

But it wasn’t all bad. With the end of the year in sight, we want to celebrate 16 brilliant moments from 2016 – including some impressive young people who have been shaping the world.

1. This 18 year old Syrian refugee made a splash at the Olympics

Yursa Mardini helped save the lives of 20 people after jumping off a sinking dinghy into the sea and pulling the boat to land. She was fleeing her home in war-torn Damascus.

That isn’t the only amazing thing about this 18 year old. Last year she also competed in the women’s 100-metre butterfly and freestyle heats in the Olympics. Confronting the dehumanisation of refugees in the media, a true inspiration.

2. Young people made their voices heard in politics

Young Zambians helped their fellow citizens find out more about the elections in their country, used their power to vote, and rallied for peace after the election. In Uganda young people articulated an alternative vision for their country. 

Oh and youth turnout for the Brexit vote was double what you were first told – and they’re already organising to get the best deal for young people.

Important stuff? We think so.

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3. Young Sierra Leoneans were crucial to ending Ebola

On 17th March 2016, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of Ebola over. Thousands of young Restless Development volunteers were crucial to ending the virus. Working in their communities across the country to show people how to prevent the spread of Ebola.

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4. Young people are at the heart of the UK’s approach to global development

The UK Government’s Department for International Development published its first Youth Agenda. With the UK proudly leading the world with its 0.7% commitment to aid, this was truly a ‘landmark moment’ for youth leading development.

Importantly, it was written by young people, for young people. Making sure their voices are heard, demanding support for the issues they care most about.

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5. This boy created a ring to help Parkinson’s patients

Utkarsh Tandon, from the USA, developed OneRing a Bluetooth-enabled device for monitoring Parkinson’s patients behavior. Now a CEO at the age of 15, he’s bringing the product to market on the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign. What a hero.

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6. Volunteers in India planted almost 50 million trees to combat climate change

Clearly this is a new world record, completely demolishing the previous 2013 record of 1 million.  800,000 people worked for 24 hours to get the job done as part of the deal India made at the Paris Climate Conference last year – Green indeed.

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7. The Ice Bucket Challenge turned out to be a big success

Not only are scientists making massive strides in ALS research, they’re also doing it using the funds raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge that was viral on social media about two years ago. Young people all over the world took part in the challenge. Although being accused of ‘slacktivism’, this proves social media trends really can help!

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8. World leaders made giant leaps towards making medicines more affordable for everyone

For the past year Youth Stop AIDS’ Missing Medicines campaign argued that the system for developing new medicines is failing.  It limits competition and innovation, meaning that people like Martin Shkreli can get away with hiking up the price of a vital AIDS drug by 5000%.

Prior to the World Health Assembly in May, a petition signed by thousands of young people was handed to the UK Government, demanding that they fight for access to medicines. At the Assembly a resolution on global health was agreed, resulting in some big wins which will help prioritise health needs over profit!

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9. There are more young people on the planet than ever

This year the world has more young people than it has ever had ever before. That’s right – ever. Ok so the numbers of young people will continue to grow for a bit, so we can say this next year too. But the global youth population is starting to level out and that’s why it’s crucial to make the most of this historical ‘Peak Youth’ moment.

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10. This girl pitched for equality

15 year old Mo’ne Davis was the first African American girl to play in the Little League World Series, and the first female to pitch a winning game. Since releasing her memoir last year, Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name, she has designed trainers to raise money for Plan International’s Because I Am A Girl campaign, aimed at helping lift girls around the world out of poverty. Go girl.

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11. More people than ever think of themselves as ‘Global Citizens’

A recent BBC World Service poll, of more than 20,000 people in 18 countries, shows that people are increasingly choosing to identify as ‘global’ citizens.

But what does that really mean? Well it shows more and more people are thinking beyond borders and national differences, and embracing an identity as citizens of the world. 

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12. A South African schoolgirl fought drought with fruit

Kiara Nirghin has won the grand prize at Google’s science fair. Beating students from around the world for a scholarship with her “fighting drought with fruit” submission. She used orange peel to develop a cheap super-absorbent material to help soil retain water, in response to a recent drought in South Africa. 

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13. Young people shaped the Global Goals

This is the first year the world has had the Global Goals. These goals are bringing all countries together to embark on a new path to improve the lives of people everywhere. Sound good? It gets better.

Young people, like Eva in Tanzania and Bhiwani in Nepal, are using data to hold leaders to the promises they’ve made in the Goals. Promises like making sure everyone has clean water, and everyone can access a decent education. These young people have been working hard to make these changes a reality in their communities.

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14. Young people said ‘It Ain’t Over’ and decision makers listened

Hot on the heels of their Missing Medicines success, Youth Stop AIDS latest campaign is demanding the world wakes up to the threat of HIV & AIDS once again. They want the UK Government to show financial, programmatic and political leadership on the issue – and they’re already winning the fight.

The UK made its biggest financial commitment ever to The Global Fund for ending AIDS, TB and Malaria and the International Development Committee is launching an inquiry into DFID’s programmatic work on HIV. Good wins – but it ain’t over for the campaign yet.

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15. Thousands of young people took part in global volunteering

2016 saw thousands of young people take part in the International Citizenship Service  (ICS) programme. Bringing together volunteers to work side-by-side on community projects in some of the world’s poorest countries. Let’s take a moment to celebrate their thousands of important ‘little victories’!

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16. Young people made sure they had a seat at the Global table

Who said being young means you can’t be experienced? Minhaz lobbied his first MP aged just 10 years old, and now at 18 he can count years of engaging young people in the big issues locally and regionally.

Takyiwa from London is nothing short of a super-activist. The 23-year old kick started her passion for changing the world when she volunteered on the International Citizenship Service (ICS) in kenya. 

Takyiwa and Minhaz were the UK’s Youth Delegates to the United Nations General Assembly in September. They took young people’s opinions and concerns straight to Global leaders.
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What do you think?

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