October 09, 2019

"We are the leaders of tomorrow, and world leaders are now realising this"

Pavel Sawar, Javita Nauth and Wanja Maina in front of Theirworld’s billboard in Times Square

Three of Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassadors report on a busy trip to New York for the UN General Assembly, where they met high level policy-makers and politicians, and made the case for quality education around the world.

Theirworld’s inspiring Global Youth Ambassadors had an amazing week advocating for the rights of children to quality education. 

Alongside our wider network of supporters and partners, our GYAs help to amplify our campaigns and spread the word about the scale of the current education crisis, which is denying an education to 260 million children every day.

Each year, we attend the UN General Assembly as part of our education advocacy work, and we were so excited to have several of our GYAs join us for UNGA 2019 - where they attended a number of events to help bring the voices of young people to the world’s highest level annual political forum. 

It was a really positive week for global education, with hundreds of millions of dollars pledged to two key education funds. Pavel Sawar,  Wanja Maina and Javita Nauth shared their thoughts on the week’s events, and their experiences in New York as part of the GYA network.

Pavel Sawar has been a Global Youth Ambassador since 2018. Originally from Bangladesh, he currently lives in Malaysia where he works on education advocacy, focussing on technology and skills training.

Being in New York for this year’s UNGA was one of the best opportunities of my life. The week was so much fun, and I had the opportunity to meet new people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and traditions every day. 

Some highlights for me include visiting the Infinity Classroom on the UN Plaza, I thought it was such an interesting concept which really brought the scale of the education crisis to life.

Pavel at our Infinity Classroom exhibit

I also had the chance to meet with Yasmine Sherif, the Director for Education Cannot Wait - one of the education funds that Theirworld supports. The meeting made a lasting impression on me - when she speaks, she speaks from the heart, and her enthusiasm and commitment really encouraged me to continue my own advocacy work.  

It was also so inspiring to meet some of my fellow GYAs and to see so many young people working for the betterment of their countries. We are the leaders of tomorrow, and I think that world leaders are now realizing this. During UNGA the voices and concerns of young people from across the globe were heard, but young people don't just want to listen, they want to see the real action. 

That’s why we need to support campaigns such as Theirworld’s #WriteTheWrong campaign, which is already having an impact. More than 1,000 heads of government, senior officials, activists and celebrities came to see the Theirworld Infinity Classroom last week at UNGA And more than $2 billion was unlocked to #WriteTheWrong & get children globally back into school. This is the real achievement.

Wanja Maina is a disability and human rights campaigner from Kenya. She has been a Global Youth Ambassador since 2014.

Being able to attend this year’s UNGA was a really interesting and enlightening experience for me. It was great to be in New York, to attend events where I met a number of world leaders. 

For me, a highlight of the week was when I listened to Gordon Brown when he built a very good case for education. What struck me most was his comment that you can live 40 days without food, and eight days without water but, without hope, we cannot live even for a day. Education is key to generating hope for young people. 

Another favourite moment was when I met the world's best teacher, Peter Tabichi. What struck me most was his humility. He handles himself with so much grace, yet he is also so passionate about students from Kenya - particularly from the rural part of Kenya - who have so little, but yet their dreams are so big. 

Wanja Maina speaking at the pledging event for Education Cannot Wait in front of an audience of activists and leaders from politics, business and charity, seated next to Tatjana Von Steiger, Deputy Assistant Director General, Swiss Agency for Development Corporation

I also learnt more about the scale of the education crisis and what that means for us as the next generation. There are 260 million children out of school, and whilst 260 million might seem like just a number, but for me, I have seen the children who are disadvantaged by the education crisis. These are kids with feelings, kids who hope for a better future, kids who are girls or kids who have a disability. We must make an effort to invest in these children and get them in school. 

For those people who are interested in becoming a GYA - this is a real movement of young people who are interested in what is happening around the world, and taking action to ensure children get the chance to an education.

Javita speaking on a youth leaders' panel at the Global Business Coalition for Education and Generation Unlimited lunch event at UNICEF House

Javita Nauth, from Guyana, is a graduate of the City College of the City University of New York and is passionate about research and supporting children, young adults and families diverse populations.

“My favourite moment was working with an incredibly diverse and supportive team. Meeting my fellow GYAs from Kenya and Malaysia left quite an impression on me, because I got the opportunity to meet my peers and hear about what they are doing to challenge and change the status quo in their home countries.

“I gained from my experience at UNGA 2019, the insight on how the power-dynamics has shifted to the youths, and how there is more representation for youths. Youths were invited to share their thoughts, decisions, and creative solutions.

“UNGA 2019 was successful in the sense that we were able to voice and visualize what the education crisis is and how we can fix it. The Infinity Classroom showcased what the reality and truth is for children struggling to obtain early childhood education, and how with the assistance of political and financial willpower, we can help to write the wrong for so many children in need.”

You can find out more about becoming a GYA here.

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