8 things we learnt from Keeping Up with YL4N for World Food Day

Youth Leaders

“You have the platform, we have the voice. Together we can make a difference”
Bormey Chhun, Youth Leader for Nutrition Cambodia

Last week’s World Food Day also marked the inaugural youth-led webinar from the SUN CSN Youth Leaders for Nutrition.

The event was organised in the same spirit that embodies the Youth Leaders for Nutrition programme – for youth, by youth. In the lead up to the event, a working group of three Youth Leaders juggled decisions on event formats, Zoom logistics, speaker invitations, and poster designing alongside their own work, study, and nutrition campaigns. The result was a spectacular event which was testimony to their tireless work.

We learnt a lot from the Youth Leaders’ first webinar, and not just that Gerda Verburg can milk a cow! Here are a few highlights:

  1. Covid-19 is not going to stop our Youth Leaders!

Despite saying that it was both heart-warming and heart-breaking to be speaking to everyone through a screen rather than face to face, Bormey Chhun, Youth Leader from Cambodia and moderator of the event, had these encouraging words: “It is time we sheroes and heroes of nutrition become more impactful than Covid-19 by coming together to build back better”.

2. Gender equality starts at home

Not afraid to go in with the big questions, Maxwell Mumba, Youth Leader from Zambia, kicked off his conversation on gender with Gerda Verburg, SUN Movement coordinator, by asking how she sees gender issues in the world of nutrition. Gerda maintained “it has to start at home” and we must make sure that “women and girls are not treated as second-hand human beings”. In many parts of the world women and girls play the largest role in nutrition choices at home, from choosing and buying the produce to cooking it. Challenging gender norms and roles at home and from an early age can positively affect a family’s nutrition.

3. We need men to be gender champions too

Maxwell believes that women and girls must have a seat at the decision-making table. He committed to championing women and girls through his work as a Youth Leader for Nutrition and in his community, He pointed to the new youth network he helped to set up in Zambia, which is focussed on finding sustainable solutions to the SDGs, as a great example of youth-led work to empower women.

4. 1 in 6 people in the world is an adolescent

Jane Napais, Youth Leader from Kenya, began her conversation with Joel by reminding us how adolescents make up a huge part of the global population! With such a large population, Joel Spicer, president and CEO of Nutrition International, described adolescent nutrition as the key to breaking the malnutrition cycle – but also as “a huge missed opportunity for creating a better world”. Jane went on to explain how reaching adolescents can be difficult, particularly during the pandemic where not all children are in school – but she emphasised how important it is to ensure that this age group is consulted in decisions, because they are the experts in what they need.

5. Joel Spicer wants people to hear what YL4N have to say about anaemia

On the topic of anaemia, which can seriously affect adolescents, Joel committed to connect the Youth Leaders for Nutrition with high level people across the world and give both parties the opportunity to hear from each other on the subject. When probed by Head of the CSN Secretariat on what he would commit to doing about this, Joel said he can “commit to using our networks, our connections and our board, to create focussed conversations between people who are in positions of power…and Youth Leaders for Nutrition.” This is something we are super excited about!

6. When it comes to advocacy, every voice matters  

Jade Delgado, our Youth Leader from the Philippines, told us that “it is important to have as much representation of young people as we can in different organisations and in our decision-making bodies.” In order to improve adolescent nutrition, it is really important that we include youth, not only in the decision-making process, but as educators of their own generation. Inger Ashing, the CEO of Save the Children International, said that she is keen to make sure that they work with young people and that young people are part of the solution, because, in her words, “every voice counts.”

7. We need more youth voices in decisions

As a civil society representative on the SUN Lead Group, as well Inger Ashing committed to make sure that youth are invited to the table and that decisions of the SUN Movement represent youth perspectives. “Youth have a lot to bring to the table, and solutions will be much better if we address it collectively.”

    8. Nutrition is the foundation of life – and 2021 will be full of chances for us to spread this message!

In his closing remarks, Webster Makombe, Youth Leader for Nutrition from Zimbabwe, remarked that the World Food Programme recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, bringing the nutrition agenda to the forefront of everyone’s minds and reminding us of its importance. He noted that next year brings us many opportunities to spread this message – from the UN Food Systems Summit, to the Nutrition for Growth Summit and so much more. We must make the most of this opportunity!

There were too many interesting points and discussions to capture all of them here, so you’ll just have to check out the full video of the webinar to hear all of it.

From the positive feedback we’ve received on the webinar so far, it’s clear that there is huge appetite for more youth-led events like this – so watch this space for the next YL4N webinar!