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Martin Masiya, 19, is a Youth Think Tank Researcher from Malawi who is currently working on exploring the experiences of young Malawian small business owners in regards to running and expanding their businesses.  He is an entrepreneur and student leader who is passionate about photography. He runs a Multi-Media Micro Enterprise in Blantyre and is a President of the University of Malawi – Polytechnic Anti-Corruption society.

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was a truly amazing experience! It brought together organizational delegates from all around the world, and it was an honour being a delegate for Restless Development and the Mastercard Foundation Youth Think Tank (YTT) program. There were plenty of platforms to share the work that Restless Development and the YTT are doing, from events and forums to TV and Web interviews. 

Central to the HLPF were the discussions at main events and side events hosted by the United Nations and other organizations. Among the many side events I attended, I would like to highlight three side events that I felt were the most impactful to my work as a Youth Think Tank Researcher:

Youth Collective for Gender Equality hosted by the UNFPA and ActionAid

We were invited as youth panellists alongside representatives from ActionAid, UNDP, Prosperity Foundation and the Family Planning Initiative #FP2020, to address key issues about how youth-led change can impact the mission for gender equality.  

I got to contribute on how the choice of media usage impacts the uptake of projects by youth, drawing on examples from the YTT research on Tourism that was undertaken in 2018. It was also great to learn about how youth-led accountability plays a role in achieving Gender Equality.  

SDG Training Workshop hosted by the Danish Mission to the UN, ActionAid and the Office of the UN Youth Envoy  

Alongside representatives from organizations from countries like Brazil, Botswana, India, Tanzania, Japan and Malaysia, we were engaged in an interactive session on promising practices and initiatives to increase meaningful youth engagement in the SDG achievement process. 

As a result of our discussion, we tabled recommendations to Civil Society Organizations, governments and institutions present at the HLPF as to how they can have more inclusive youth accountability processes for the SDGs.

World Youth Skills Day at The United Nations

The HLPF coincided with World Youth Skills Day 2019 #WYSD2019, an event at the UN Headquarters that brought in major players like the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNESCO and government delegates to participate in a discussion around the future of youth skills. 

I had the opportunity to share on the responsibility of employers towards youth employees in skills building, using results of the YTT research on Tourism, citing that most young people feel that they are not given adequate opportunities by their employers for skills building.

Being at the side events allowed me to appreciate spaces for serious thought on how we can make the world better, and the potential of the youth in influencing the UN’s aims and strategies for youth development and support. It got me to realise that such spaces are great not only for contributing to the UN strategies but also for networking with fellow youth and those that have the capabilities to advance the youth agenda.  

Youth Think Tank members invigorated after participating in a forum for World Youth Skills Day.

My Key Lessons from the HLPF Experience

  • There is a vibrant effort by people from all over the world to solve world issues.
  • There is so much we can do as the youth to provide solutions and strategies, and to take the lead in implementing these solutions.
  • African youth have to do more to be present at these platforms, both physically and virtually, or to gain information on such events and sessions.

My experience with meaningful youth engagement at the HLPF

In my opinion, meaningful youth engagement still remains a challenge for big events like the HLPF. I say this because, firstly, there are not enough youth representatives at such events to give an opinion during global discussions. Secondly, there aren’t enough young professionals on issues relevant to the discussions being given space to share the youth perspective. 

Martin  sharing his opinions on youth-led social change at an HLPF roundtable session organized by Restless Development

However, the UN, through the office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, seems to be making an active effort to include the youth voice at events like the HLPF. One side event that I attended was the Youth Town Hall, hosted by the UN Youth Envoy, where young people were invited to review the HLPF and share what they felt must be done to include young voices and concerns on the global stage. We took this chance with enthusiasm and shared our thoughts and perspectives with the Envoy. It was also a great opportunity to come together as just young people-to network and learn from what we were doing in our respective countries.

In conclusion, I can say that the internet, particularly social media, has given us young people a unique opportunity to engage in advocacy for major global issues. Using our seemingly informal channels, we can bring a greater youth voice to the table by facilitating online discussions that can then be incorporated in formal communications to organisations like the United Nations.  

I am so glad I got to experience this event, and I know that it has reshaped my worldview, motivating me to think and act on a bigger scale. I am so grateful to Restless Development and their partners for making this happen. Zikomo Kwambiri! (Thank You Very Much!)

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