A passion for making a difference

Issue: Volume 99, Number 3

Posted: 27 February 2020
Reference #: 1HA5y3

The new members to join the UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders group bring valuable perspectives from a diverse range of backgrounds and are passionate about ensuring young people are heard and empowered.

Ten UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders met for the first time at the end of January, unified by their interest and concern for the environment and the climate and their shared passion to foster better-connected communities and be educated and vocal global citizens. 

Each leader is appointed to the role for two years, with five leaders rotating each year – as five depart, five new leaders join – maintaining a balance of experience and fresh ideas amongst the group.

The diversity of the group – interests, backgrounds and life experience –
is carefully considered when the new members are being selected.

Unique skills

This year, the new youth leaders bring with them unique skills and a desire to make a difference.

Blair Kapa-Peters, (Te Aupouri, Te Rarawa and Ngati Kuri), is from the Far North and received the Kiwibank Local Hero Award for her efforts in the environmental sector and her work with rangatahi.

She says putting your heart into everything you do opens the door to opportunity and she plans to make a positive impact as a youth leader while absorbing all she can to “bring all my learnings home to share with my community”.

Bella Simpson is also looking forward to being part of the group’s work. Bella has already been highly influential in speaking out on the rights of transgender and LGBTI people. 

“My key driving force is to inspire and empower trans and gender diverse people to feel valued, inspired and empowered to be their best selves,” says Bella.

Wellbeing and being truly integrated into New Zealand society are what drive Naheed Saeid, a former Afghan refugee who arrived in New Zealand 18 years ago and is currently studying medicine. 

“Representation of the diverse communities and minority groups that brighten New Zealand’s social tapestry is one of my greatest passions,” says Naheed.  

Veterinary student Anne-Sophie Pagé’s bid to fight climate change and preserve New Zealand’s endemic species has already taken her many places – she has conducted climate change research on coral reefs in the Pacific as a Sir Peter Blake Ambassador, and ventured south to the Sub-Antarctic Islands as an Enderby Scholar. She has already stepped into the role of youth leader by reading at the recent 1.5 Degrees Live event in Christchurch – encouraging more people to understand climate science. 

Fellow youth leader Brodie Cross supported Anne-Sophie at this event. Brodie (Ngapuhi and Te Āti Awa) was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth and later cortical vision impairment. He has always been eager to ensure that people with additional needs are supported and listened to and has previously been a member of the Education Minister’s Youth Advisory Group. 

“Although Aotearoa New Zealand is a small and isolated country,
I believe we have the opportunity to be world leaders in how we respond to and look after people with impairments,” says Brodie.

Representing New Zealand’s views internationally is something youth leaders can have the chance to do through the many opportunities UNESCO’s networks offer.

Recommendations presented

Late last year, chair of the UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders Ashlee Peacock, with New Zealand’s delegation, attended the 40th UNESCO General Conference and spent two days at the 11th Youth Forum discussing issues of relevance to young people from all around the world.

“Each participant came with their own particular expertise and experiences, adding perspectives to the common issues we shared. We were all strong in our view – that it was time for action… we had intense discussions, super late nights and time pressures, but we did it!” Ashlee said of the forum. 

As a result, a set of clear recommendations were formulated and presented to the Deputy Director General, UNESCO Secretariat staff, and invited dignitaries.

The UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders work to ensure young people are engaged, connected and empowered in all areas of the National Commission’s work, and 2020’s leaders will weave their skills together to ensure many different voices are heard.

More information about the work of the UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders can be found on the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO’s website(external link) and Facebook page(external link).

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 1:42 pm, 27 February 2020

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