The youth took center stage during the Power of the Youth session held as part of the ChangeNOW summit in Paris last week. Throughout the session, youth speakers demonstrated how they ‘walk the talk’ in their efforts to change the present and the future for the better. They also discussed challenges they face due to their age, such as feeling infantilised and being tokenised, as well as the tools they need to feel ever more empowered in their actions.

Some key takeaways:

  • We need to celebrate the diversity of youth changemakers rather than focusing on a handful of them, as this limit our perception of changemaking 
  • The older generations can help support young people to get them a seat at the table by creating a space for young people and listening to them, reaching out to local youth to hear their opinions, linking students to empower them, and making language accessible and creating localised solutions. They should also be careful to bring in youth from different backgrounds to be on stage as use their privilege as an opportunity.
  • When striving to make a difference, don’t be afraid; go ahead and try! Find a mentor for guidance and support and who can make this process be fun.
  • Sustainability and the environment should be intertwined in all the subjects, not elective courses or optional classes to join.

Here are some inspiring words and key takeaways about the Power of the Youth session from the speakers themselves:

Melati Wijsen speaking at the Power of the Youth session at ChangeNOW 2022.

‘There is not one way to be a change-maker… find whatever you are good at and contribute those unique skills’

Ask yourself: ‘What is the world that you want to live in?’

Melati Wijsen, Founder, Bye Bye Plastic Bags

Youth have the right to be frustrated, and it is unfortunate that youth need to be in this position to promote change.

‘I would have loved not having this passion…[it is] unfortunate that youth need to be in this position to promote change.’

Julia Bethe, Policy Taskforce Lead, Youth4Nature
Julia Bethe speaking at the Power of the Youth session at ChangeNOW 2022.

Ana Cristina Garcia Sierra speaking at the Power of the Youth session at ChangeNOW 2022.

‘Youth is not only the future, it’s the present.’

Ana Cristina Garcia Sierra, Volunteer, SDSN Youth

‘Education is broken – it needs dramatic reform.’

Matty Scarratt-Jones, Representation of Youth, Avon Schools Eco Network
Matty Scarratt-Jones speaking at the Power of the Youth session at ChangeNOW 2022.