In the UK, 2018 all went a bit Pete Tong. The government said “Thank u, next” to a whole host of Cabinet members. Some of us panicked about the lack of C with our KF. And after hopes were raised, English football fans found it wasn’t coming home after all.
Then when I came back to the office last week, I started to feel overwhelmed by all that’s seriously wrong with the world. And all the battles we still need to fight as Save the Children.
But I also remembered some of what we achieved last year and some of the great stuff that’s happening around the world. In particular, I thought of 13 special people who are giving me 13 reasons to have hope for 2019.
1. Webster from Zimbabwe
Webster is an 18-year-old junior parliamentarian from Zimbabwe. After learning about the economic impact of malnutrition during a training workshop led by Save the Children, he was inspired to do something to tackle malnutrition in Zimbabwe.
Webster has launched his own campaign to increase awareness of the importance of breastfeeding. He’s planning a series of events around the country in 2019 to get people talking about breastfeeding and breaking down taboos.
In December, Webster met with UK parliamentarians in London to tell them why investing in nutrition, in particular, breastfeeding, is so important and how the UK government can better support countries like Zimbabwe.
Webster told us “It’s now time to say ‘I must do this.’ You, on your own, are a change-maker.”
2. Maryam from Nigeria
Maryam is an 18-year-old child rights activist from Kano State, Nigeria and a member of the Abuja Children’s parliament. Maryam produces songs, organises events and safe space discussions with girls in her community.
Last year, Maryam was invited to speak on the global stage – the UN General Assembly – where she shared her insight about the links between child marriage and nutrition.
This year Maryam will be using media channels such as local radio to speak about the importance of nutrition, especially for girls and women.
3. Niroj from Sri Lanka
Niroj is a youth parliamentarian from Sri Lanka.
Last year Niroj was invited to speak at a high-level event in Rome where he shared his recommendations for improving adolescent nutrition with representatives from governments and the UN. Niroj told the audience, “Children are the future of the world and youth are the heart of the world!” It was met with a standing ovation.
This year Niroj will be organising a sticker campaign across public transport in Sri Lanka to increase awareness of good nutrition.
4. Jade from The Philippines
20-year-old Jade is a girl scout from the Philippines. As an advocate for youth and nutrition, she founded the organisation ‘Children Helping Children’ to supp0rt people affected by leprosy.
Last year, Jade was invited to be the Youth Correspondent for a UN nutrition event in Bangkok. Jade interviewed important figures in the nutrition community, including World Food Prize Winner David Nabarro, as well as representatives of the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Jade has created her own campaign – ‘SHEroes for Girl Powered Nutrition’ – which is calling for adolescent nutrition to be Included in the Philippines Youth Development Plan.
5. Mike from Malawi
Mike is a youth leader from Malawi. He’s campaigning for the government of Malawi to invest more money in nutrition.
Right now, 37% of children under 5 in Malawi are stunted as a result of malnutrition and will be unable to fulfil their full potential. At Global Citizen’s recent Mandela 100 event in Johannesburg, Mike spoke about the importance of investing in nutrition, making the case to governments that nutrition is the best investment a country can make for current and future generations.
This year Mike will continue to work with journalists to encourage them to become nutrition champions, particularly across community radio.
6. Manata from Kyrgyzstan
Last year, Manata was one of only 7 young people to attend a UN event on adolescent nutrition in Rome where she shared her powerful story about the impact of gender inequality and child marriage on nutrition.
In Kyrgyzstan, Manata is working to inspire other young people to campaign for change – she’s a passionate advocate for making nutrition more youth-friendly. Some of Manata’s creative campaigning has included using dance and photo exhibitions.
7. Maxwell from Zambia
While working with children living with HIV/AIDS, Maxwell, a youth activist from Zambia, started to notice how malnourished they were. This inspired him to work with his community to raise awareness about the importance of nutrition. He started to sensitise the community on the importance of eating healthy foods as well as the importance of the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life.
Max was invited to speak on his local radio to discuss why nutrition is high on his agenda and should be for his country. He received an overwhelming number of callers.
8. Jane from Kenya
ane is a young Masai woman from Kenya. She works with adolescent girls in her community to understand what’s preventing them from accessing nutritious food. One of the biggest reasons preventing progress is gender inequality and child marriage, which Jane is now campaigning to change.
This year, Jane will be working with schools to help integrate learning about good nutrition into lessons. She’ll also reach adolescent girls out of school by working with churches and youth groups.
Jane recently blew everyone away when she spoke at the Global Citizen Mandela 100 SDG2 event in Johannesburg. She delivered a powerful call to action to an audience of heads of state, the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN and celebrities, inspiring them to do more to listen to and work in partnership with young people.
9. Hanitra from Madagascar
Hanitra is a girl guide from Madagascar, where she helped to create the national Girl Guides Nutrition Programme ‘Girl Powered Nutrition’. Not only is Hanitra creating change her own change by running nutrition awareness campaigns in communities affected by malnutrition but she is also working with the government to ensure their plans address the needs of adolescents, a group that is often ignored.
Hanitra has big plans for the future. She is a trained agronomist engineer, and conducted her Master’s research project on ‘optimising the method of extraction of proteins from soybean and peanuts to increase the quality source of proteins for Malagasy people’. Wow! That’s seriously impressive. Her dream is to use her education to improve food security and nutrition for Malagasy households.
10. Florence from Rwanda
Florence is a medical student from Rwanda. As well as studying full-time Florence is also working with a local NGO to support people affected by malnutrition. She provides advice to community members on tackling malnutrition, including setting meal plans.
As if all that wasn’t enough, last year she also attended the UN General Assembly in New York where she spoke about the importance of investing in nutrition at a high-level event. She was the only youth panellist, alongside representatives from governments, the UN and donors – an example of why young people should be given a seat at the table. She also hosted a panel discussion on nutrition at the Africa Green Revolution Forum in Rwanda. All in a day’s work…
11. Bormey from Cambodia
Bormey has created the ‘We Project’, which is campaigning for young people to be given space to share their experiences of malnutrition. Bormey is using the skills she has learned through the Youth Leaders for Nutrition Programme to train youth leaders in 10 provinces across Cambodia. Together the network of youth leaders will work together to encourage the government to increase funding for nutrition. Bormey is also planning debates, talk shows and social media campaigns to reach even more Cambodian Youth.
Last year Bormey met with members of parliament in the UK to tell them about her campaign and why talking gender inequality was central to reaching SDG2.
12. Barsha from Nepal
Barsha is campaigning for greater investment in adolescent nutrition, an area which has until now been largely neglected.
Starting in her community, Barsha is starting to change minds. She’s been delivering training about nutrition and food at school. She’s raised awareness of menstrual hygiene, junk food, adolescent nutrition and early marriage.
Barsha also organises community theatre to help communities understand complicated nutrition issues. Last year, Barsha wrote her first-ever theatre piece in English, which she performed to an international audience at a UN event in Rome.
13. ANAYAT FROM CANADA
Anayat is a young campaigner from Canada. As well as studying science, Anayat is passionate about community organising and bringing people together.
Anayat has been campaigning with RESULTS in Calgary, where she has met her local MP to talk about the importance of investing in good nutrition. She’s hoping to use her position as her university’s Vice President External to bring the voices of students to all levels of the Canadian government and advocate for Canada to do more to tackle global malnutrition. What’s more, Anayat was recently selected to sit on the nutrition committee of her University’s childcare board.
Each of these inspiring activists is playing their part to help end malnutrition by 2030. At the same time, they’re breaking down barriers for young people, demonstrating that young people are capable of amazing things if they are given the space and opportunity to lead.
They’re part of the Youth Leaders for Nutrition Programme. The programme is a partnership between the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Network, based at Save the Children, RESULTS UK, ACTION and Global Citizen.
If you ever feel demotivated by bad news stories this year, just remember what the next generation is already doing to make the world a better place… and join them.
Keep a lookout for what they get up to in 2019 – and beyond.