ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Good morning, everyone. So often, the development community thinks of young people as simply the beneficiaries of our programming. International Youth Day is about rejecting that notion and demonstrating that young people are, in fact, some of our strongest partners in securing peace and progress on the ground. In everything from advocating on behalf of the marginalized and people with disabilities, to embracing and employing clean energy and sustainable farming techniques, to driving peaceful movements for democracy on nearly every continent – young people are not waiting for change- young people are driving change. And, not only that, they are documenting it as they go.
They’re not just making a difference; they’re telling stories of impact and progress. They’re communicating urgency. They’re generating awareness with compelling images and persuasive messages. They are better at this than my generation and other generations that have come before them; they are inspiring others to follow their example.
I’m really grateful and proud to be here with you today to celebrate them for it, by recognizing the Global LEAD program’s digital storytelling contest winners. We just got a glimpse from our contest winners’ video submissions. We heard from S. Abida, who is fighting the dramatic spike we have seen in PPE waste following the COVID-19 pandemic by him launching a social media campaign that has encouraged people to embrace reusable and biodegradable face masks.
We heard from Chaima’s Ma3an project that partners with local municipalities in Tunisia, to spread important COVID-19 public health updates to remote areas where access to news and information was scarce. Thank you for that, Chaima.
And we heard from Ineza, who leads The Green Fighter, an environmental NGO in Rwanda that engages youth to conduct neighborhood cleanups, start environmental clubs in schools, and conduct letter writing campaigns urging governments to take action on the environment.
Despite the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead––whether it is with our pandemic response, the growing climate crisis, the challenge of advancing democracy, or generating economic opportunity––USAID sees in its youth partners a willingness and capacity, not just to make an impact, but to inspire others to join the cause.
Throughout history, young people like S. Abida, Chaima, Ineza have always been behind movements for progress and social change, whether here in the United States or around the world. What is different today is the ease and accessibility you have to both document and evangelize your work, through tools as familiar and commonplace as smartphones and social media networks. We received dozens of videos to the “Watch Our Impact” contest—young people who are preventing gender-based violence, using data-based reporting to hold leaders to account, and starting small businesses to increase economic prosperity—all of these efforts were able to translate their work in the real world into powerful videos documenting that work. That ability to tell stories and share one’s story is so important, because your power lies in activating one another––in your ability to connect with other young people and unite around the issues and injustices that matter to you and to your generation.
We are pleased at USAID to not just support young people, but to empower them as leaders and to invest in them as storytellers. Together, you’re forming the foundation of a new generation of global leaders, you are tangibly sharing your vision for a brighter future with the world. I look forward to seeing where you’ll go, where you’ll take us, and I look forward to hearing the stories in the future that you are going to tell. And now, I have the pleasure of inviting our digital storytelling contest winners back to the virtual stage.
Welcome each of you, and hearty congratulations.