Essay submitted by Jessica da Silva
Director, Youth Agencies Alliance
“Is economic, social and environmental sustainability achievable in our world today?”
“Am I capable of living past the age of 50?”
“Is reversing global warming still a possibility?”
Unfortunately, these are all questions that today’s youth feel obligated to ask themselves on a daily basis. But far from being passive victims, young people all over the world have begun to fight back on a scale never seen before. For instance, motivated by the inaction of those in power, young people across the globe marched for the environment on Sept. 27, 2019, demanding a response to climate change and global warming.
At Youth Agencies Alliance (YAA), we are committed to helping young people take action to protect the future of our planet. So, last year in partnership with The Winnipeg Foundation, Green Action Centre, the Story Source (an organization that uses a narrative approach to build leadership skills and capacity), and Lee Spence (an Indigenous consultant that helps the community to decolonize social institutions), YAA developed a new program – the Youth Green Action Plan (YGAP). The intention of YGAP was to create a safe, youth-led space that inspired participants to speak up about climate change and take climate action. At the end of the program, one participant mentioned they enjoyed the program because, “We got to express ourselves and learn about others and had a say in what happens.”
The future is powered by youth. If we are to leave no one behind, and achieve social, economic and environmental justice, these investments in young people are crucial. YAA’s vision for a better Winnipeg prioritizes and fosters an environment conducive to young people’s actions and contributions to peace and security, prevention of violence, and humanitarian and climate action.
Our vision for a better Winnipeg ensures universal access to quality and inclusive education and health services, including formal and non-formal education that adopts lifelong learning. This will help meet social, economic and environmental needs, promoting sustainable lifestyles and development.
In addition, YAA’s approach to understanding and achieving poverty reduction, crime prevention and harm education, is to engage with community partners that already utilize social determinants of health to fully provide resources and recreation to those who are systematically disadvantaged.
The vision for a better Winnipeg must also transition towards green and climate friendly economies. We believe this will improve energy efficiency and limit greenhouse gas emissions, and create more and better employment opportunities for young people. Our vision for a better Winnipeg also includes awareness of the various and intersecting forms of discrimination and abuse many young people experience. In doing so, we will help prevent and address widespread and grave human rights violations.
YAA recognizes that supporting youth leadership across the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and across civil society movements, helps us build a world in which the human rights of every young person are realized; that ensures every young person is empowered to achieve their full potential; and that recognizes young people’s agency, resilience and positive contributions as agents of change.
If we are to achieve peace, security, justice, climate resilience and sustainable development for all, we must create the conditions that empower, develop and engage young people. Because, partnering with young people and ensuring they are not only heard but understood, not only engaged but empowered, and not only supporting but leading, enriches our efforts to build a just and inclusive Winnipeg.
Jessica da Silva has a Master’s in Political Science from the University of Manitoba and Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Escola Superior de Administração e Marketing, Brazil. She has been volunteering and employed with the charitable and non-profit sector with a focus in youth, women’s issues, and community building. She believes that in order to create a more just society we need to rethink and reconstruct our social norms and relations. Accordingly, Jessica wants to be an active member and supporter of organizations, programs, initiatives, and movements that transcend our so-called normal, creating a society that prioritizes equity, justice, respect for nature and all forms of life, and a better future for everyone.