The Young Leaders Council, a Restless Development UK programme, is a group of 10 young people aged 10 – 14 who are developing their campaign and leadership skills by leading on a campaign to reduce food waste in schools.
On International Youth Day, Restless Development hosted a picnic to celebrate what young people have achieved during the pandemic. Aniya, Yasin and Jahaan, members of the YLC, attended as guests speakers and delivered a powerful speech they wrote about youth leadership, their experience on the Young Leaders Council and reflections on the past year.
Hi everyone, thank you for speaking today. Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourselves?
Aniya: My name is Aniya. I am 10 years old and I go to Lambrook school. I was really happy when I found the opportunity to become a young leader and be part of Restless Development as I really believe in what the charity stands for. My hobbies are street dancing, swimming and playing netball. I also love spending time with my friends, family and my community.
Yasin:My name is Yasin, I am 10 years old, I go to Dulwich Prep London and my hobbies include golf, football, reading, tennis and swimming as part of my local club. I love music and play the cello and guitar. I also enjoy cooking, growing my own veg and travelling with my family. My passion is debating and supporting causes such as climate change and preventing inequality so I am super excited to be part of the Youth council.
Jahaan: My name is Jahaan, I am 10 years old, I go to Elmhurst school for boys. My hobbies are playing sports such as basketball, football, table tennis, tennis, swimming and badminton. I also enjoy cooking and creating songs online and I play the drums, I sing songs and post them on my mum’s Instagram.
We understand that you are all part of the Young Leaders Council. Can you tell us what that is?
Yasin: The Young Leaders Council is a group of 10 leaders all from different schools around England who are trying to make change and reduce food waste in their schools. We had to apply in January 2021. We were asked to answer a series of questions about why we wanted to participate and other questions around what it meant to be a leader and how we overcame personal challenges. I wanted to join to learn how to campaign because there are so many global problems that need to be stopped such as education and health inequality, wildlife protection, climate change and the list goes on.
We all passionately believe young people should be given a voice, and are key contributors in decision making when trying to create change for a better future.”
How did you come to decide your topic?
Aniya: After looking at the different stories, we eventually decide on food waste. How bad is it that we throw away so much food when some people are suffering from hunger? As students, we see the problem every day at dinner time. Having done some research at my school, I can also see that some food is wasted because of portion sizes being too large, even when the students ask for a small amount. We wanted to spread awareness and hopefully change the amount of food waste that schools are producing.
What actions have you taken since starting the council and what progress has been made?
Yasin: After we chose the topic, we started to conduct quantitative and qualitative research. We interviewed multiple decision makers in our schools including head teachers, bursar and catering teams to find out about how food waste was managed. We prepared questionnaires for our classmates, and put the results into graphs and tables. We used this data to share with our class in presentations and create posters, but also put into letters to our local councils to give our arguments more impact. Some of us contacted our local councils and one of the London councils agreed to help put together a presentation to share with the school in an assembly. They invited us to tour around their bio food waste management facility.
What are the next steps and what are you hoping to achieve?
Jahaan: We hope that this campaign will raise awareness of the issue to other students, teachers and members of the community. We would like students to be more mindful and consider what they actually want to eat, so they don’t end up wasting food. We would like the local councils that we have contacted to influence our schools to make these changes. We hope to be creative and use leftover food to make different items on the menu, for example broccoli stems to make soup, or left-over sausages to make stew. Another idea we have is to use the waste for compost and create a vegetable patch at school, to also help save money on buying food and actually growing it instead.
We would like students to be more mindful and consider what they actually want to eat, so they don’t end up wasting food. We would like the local councils that we have contacted to influence our schools to make these changes.”
Aniya, can you tell us about a story that inspired you?
Aniya: At the very start of this Young Leaders Council, it was really nice to get to know different people in the council and learn about Restless Development and the great projects they do around the world. We also learnt about different stories around the world that Restless Development has supported – for example, there was this one girl named Sonali, who lives in India and children in her village as because of Covid, all schools closed down. At first I found the story quite sad as these children did not have a school to go to, yet we do. Sonali was then brave enough to step up and teach these children and give them an education. Restless Development helped Sonali to achieve this. Imagine how many more children around the world could improve their lives with these positive changes.
Yasin, do you think young people have the power to change the world?
Yasin: Yes, I believe all people, especially young people have the power to change the world. Every young person should look to make a difference by taking action, however big or small; from building out a full campaign to highlight an issue, to putting up a poster or even sending an encouraging message to a friend.
To make the world a better place, it is more important than ever for youth to speak up to drive positive changes in the world.”
Always be curious and never be afraid to ask leaders challenging questions. For example, with our campaign we are going to raise awareness on the issue of food waste to teachers and students and our wider community. Young people can build strong campaigns through good research and sharing findings with the right influential people to persuade them to support you. We are lucky to have a voice and powerful data.
Why is youth leadership so important and what does it mean to you?
Jahaan – Youth leadership is extremely important in this world because young people need to get their say because I believe our generation can make this world a better place and if we all campaign it will make a difference.