On this International Youth Day 2023, the world turns its focus to the driving force of our future—the youth. With the theme “Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World,” we find ourselves in a pivotal moment where the challenges of a rapidly changing world intersect with the power of innovative and eco-conscious young minds. As we celebrate the passion, resilience, and transformative potential of the youth, we asked three of our exceptional youth leaders: Mercy Akintunde, Tomiwa Olusesi and Kawthar Omisore to share their experiences, aspirations, and lessons they’ve gathered along their journeys towards transforming education.

Mercy Akintunde

“We are in this together”

“Being a youth is a fulfilling experience, but at the same time, it is the most confusing stage of one’s life. It’s a stage where support, motivation, and strength are needed in excess. As Nigerian youth, there are a lot of challenges that we face solely for being Nigerian: economic uncertainty, job insecurity, corruption, insecurity, etc., and in all of these, it is very easy to lose focus and lose motivation. One of the ways I have been able to push myself in this journey is by constantly motivating myself, being open to support, and constantly learning and unlearning. However, this is not enough. I try my best to enjoy the journey and keep my eyes on the end goal. I believe there are different opportunities available for us to tap into, and we are surrounded by people ready to lend a helping hand. They might not be physically accessible, but the digital world offer a variety of life-changing opportunities. For instance, learning new skills through YouTube or TikTok tutorials. My advice to all youth is to stay motivated, don’t self-sabotage, give it your all, and enjoy the journey. We are in this together.”

Tomiwa Olusesi 

“Young people are no longer content with being passive observers.”

“For far too long, young people have been seen as mere recipients of developmental projects and policies, as opposed to giving them a seat at the table. However, It is beautiful to see how many are no longer content with being passive observers. Nonprofit organizations like OneAfricanChild are providing young people the platform to voice out and advocate against the structural inequities that exist in our educational systems. Young people are pivotally positioned to be architects of shifting paradigms, challenging norms, and fashioning the destinies of our continents. Our capacity to effect change knows no limits, and there is no other time to start building the world we want to see than now!”

Kawthar Omisore 

“My doubts couldn’t stop me from transforming lives through literacy”

“My journey as a youth leader started out as me identifying the problem of poor literacy level in my community and wanting to change that narrative by making literacy a fundamental part of the lives of children while also equipping them with the needed skills for them to thrive wherever they find themselves. Being a youth leader has been a learning experience for me as it has been for the children in my community and every other person I’ve worked with. Embracing the mindset that I need to be empowered in order to empower others has also contributed greatly to my growth. Staring out, I doubted if I had what it took to impact these children’s lives or if the timing was right. However, witnessing their progress dispelled my doubts. I now feel a profound responsibility to offer these children hope for change and a brighter future. To me, life means striving to enhance the quality of  life for others. While finance, staying up almost all night researching and thinking on how to help that child who doesn’t speak during trainings or can’t read fluently have constantly been in the picture, I’ve learnt to ask myself “what abilities do I need to enhance in order to get my desired results?”

“While there is still much to be achieved, I take pride in securing primary school funding for two children, establishing a community library with 500+ books, and creating opportunities for 800+ individuals. I was recognized by UNESCO as a change-maker for girls’ education in Nigeria, recognized as one of the top 20 emerging leaders in Oyo state by MAYEIN as well as by Junior Chamber International Nigeria for “Selfless Contributions to a Worthy Cause”. I am proud of the success I have achieved over the years but most importantly, grateful to God and strong support systems who made all that possible. Making the decision to positively impact lives while also building something for yourself can be demanding. We all have the same 24 hrs in a day but with an adequate mastery of time-management, a strong community of supportive, like-minded Individuals and a constant reminder of your WHY when the journey becomes tough will keep you focused and make the process almost seamless.”

As we reflect on the powerful insights shared by these three exceptional youth leaders from the OneAfricanChild Foundation, a common thread of determination, growth, and resilience emerges. International Youth Day 2023 reminds us that the journey towards a sustainable world is not only about addressing global challenges but also about fostering a mindset of empowerment, collaboration, and continuous learning. These youth voices inspire us to recognize our collective capacity for change, and to embrace the responsibility of shaping a future that prioritizes the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants. Together, we embark on a path toward a more sustainable world—one driven by green skills, youthful innovation, and unwavering hope.

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