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Behind the victim’s mask, a hero

Karen Tuason, #GLFCOP19 Youth speaker

“We, we, we” – It will certainly ring a bell for whoever has some experience of global development conferences. People get together with the beautiful purpose of changing the world, “for the best.” A “we”, like an unidentified monster. Everybody returns home with quite an unclear idea of who will do what to contribute to the broad picture.

On the top of this, the youth! The youth, often invited at conferences to present their “needs and challenges.” Presented as the poor victim, they stick to the passive role of a lamenting group that needs assistance, in the same way that we go to the doctor expecting him to find remedies and tell us what to do.

At the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD), we have been asserting youth’s innovative ideas, creativity, and energy as an argument for better youth involvement. For the 2013 Global Landscapes Forum, it was high time to bring on the youth-in-action.  Instead of presenting their challenges, these youth would showcase what they have been really doing, and the concrete impact that has resulted from their work.

Instead of so-called advocates telling how much young people are active and need support, we wanted to see what is really going on with youth in landscapes sector, concretely, and at all levels. Young people ARE active in the landscapes sector – but is it verbalized enough? Is it something people are aware of? What if we give youth the opportunity to say: “Let me tell you what I am doing in the landscapes sector.”

It is this noble idea that lies behind the youth movement organized by the YPARD , which, in partnership with CIFOR and CCAFS, gave shape to a TEDx-style youth session of young inspiring speakers at the 2013 Global Landscapes Forum in Warsaw, Poland. FANRPAN, with their strong action in agriculture, climate change and youth, also joined the team. The concept would have stayed on paper without the sponsorship of CGIAR, The Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).

We received 150 submissions from young people across the globe hoping to contribute to this session. Each submission described a project or a cause these youth work on, or are passionate about. We were really impressed about the diversity of these submissions, and how young people around the world, often with minimal resources and under difficult circumstances, dedicated their precious time and efforts to the sole goal of making a difference.

While we could only invite a handful of these people here to the Global Landscapes Forum, we decided to publish all submissions in the hope of increase the visibility of each. Over the past month, the public was given the chance to vote for their favorite submission, expressing how much they were inspired by each.

We received a total of 13,344 votes, and these are the top 5 submissions. Kudos to the Winners!

#97: The potential of introducing agriculture to children by Miftachur
Rizqi, Indonesia

#89: Entrepreneurship skills of forestry students by Maria-Catalina Becerra
Leal, Colombia

#67: A youth led collective to educate and empower youth in environmental
issues
by Xiomara Acevedo, Colombia

#24: Teaching communities on recycling, deforestation and environmental
protection
by Mmakgabo Confidance Mapotse, Republic of South Africa

#1: Mentorship and training programs for farmers, youth, and women by Isaac
Kosgei, Kenya

Our plan to showcase inspiring young professionals went far beyond our expectations. In addition to bringing together a set of 10 role models in the landscapes sector, we were able to grasp the diversity of youth initiatives in more than 50 countries online and mobilize people’s attention towards these initiatives.

While we need to keep stressing youth’s issues and solicit youth support from other stakeholders, let’s not forget to emphasize what young people are actively working on and build discussions from there to achieve concrete enhancement and impact. Young people aren’t poor victims – so many of them are, in fact, heroes!

Blog by Marina Cherbonnier (YPARD), a social media reporter for GLF 2013.

Photo: N. Palmer (IWMI)

This blog post was initially posted on Global Landscapes Forum's official website.