I believe that the transformation of society rests largely with children and youth. Young people have the power to transform the very existence of their societies, and have demonstrated this time and again throughout history. The Bahá’í Writings say, “To every generation of young believers comes an opportunity to make a contribution to the fortunes of humanity, unique to their time of life. For the present generation, the moment has come to reflect, to commit, to steel themselves for a life of service from which blessing will flow in abundance.”
Service has always been a strong feature in my life, and since I was a child I have devoted time and resources to the causes that I believe in. Financial gain has never been the focus, and as a result I have had a wealth of opportunity and experience that I believe have somehow contributed to the betterment of society, no matter how small that contribution may be. My focus has been in the areas of sustainability and human development and these are some of my contributions.
In 2013, YouThink Green hosted an international summit, with over 130 youth from 30 countries, with the theme ‘Youth and Sustainability in Everyday Life – Challenge, Rethink and Revive Global Ways of Living’. The aim of the summit was to create a think-tank of youth inspired actions that could be committed at a local level, and to commit young people to the process of actualising these actions. For the summit, I served a role of facilitator for various groups of young people, encouraging discussion and creative thinking around topics of sustainability, and was the main facilitator for the development of the YouThink Green outcome document, a set of commitments and demands developed by the youth at the summit.
For more information on the summit visit the YouThink Green 1st World Youth Sustainability Summit website.
In 2012, the South African Institute of International Affairs hosted a Young Leaders Conference that exposed young people to inspiring leaders in government, the private sector, academia and the diplomatic corps to discuss issues related to international affairs, predominantly climate change and sustainable development, education and UN Security Council reform.
It gave them the opportunity to debate and find solutions to a range of challenges, locally and globally. I served as a mentor to the group, aligning discussions with current outcomes from the recent Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and giving keynote addresses to the learners. For more information on SAIIA Youth Programs visit:
At the end of 2009, the UN General Assembly decided to organise a High-Level Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 in Brazil. The Conference would come 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit, which initially put sustainable development on the global agenda. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, dubbed Rio+20, had the aim of renewing political will, reviewing implementation gaps and discussing new and emerging challenges in sustainable development, offering a unique opportunity for the voices of children and youth to be heard at this critical point of redefining our future.
Through my role as Organising Partner of the MGCY, our primary responsibility was to facilitate youth inputs globally into the Rio+20 process, and to facilitate the participation of youth at the conference itself. As the official representatives of youth at Rio+20, the MGCY hosted the Youth Blast – International Conference of Youth. Almost 2,000 people from across the world attended the conference, aimed at building capacity and a global youth movement at the sustainability talks. My key responsibilities at Rio+20 included preparing for and facilitating the Youth Blast, media and communications liaison with Brazilian and international press, UN Security-MGCY liaison and MGCY group facilitator. A full detail of the work of the MGCY at Rio+20 can be found at:
UN Commission on Sustainable Development, Major Group for Children and Youth, Internationally 2008-2012
The Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) is the official youth voice for the UN sustainability negotiations, namely the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), an annual conference discussing a range of global sustainability issues and developing policy to overcome these challenges. The MGCY is made up of volunteers, youth-led organisations, youth networks and individuals who care about the sustainability of our planet and actively want to participate in shaping the future. Through networking and collaborating with young people around the world, the MGCY develops policy recommendations for the official sustainable development process and participates in the negotiations to lobby for their adoption. In addition, the MGCY is a platform for youth involved in sustainability at a local level to share their ideas, tell their stories and voice their opinions.
I served on the MGCY as an Organising Partner, liasing directly with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs to advance youth participation globally. Over the years, and working with a team of exceptional youth, we facilitated the input of thousands of young people into international policy development, while simultaneously building capacity and increasing communications and awareness. Through facilitating workshops both on-line and in person, we established a strong network of young people who participated in the UNCSD, developing statements, negotiating policy, hosting and presenting in panel events and discussions, and promoting local voices at a global level. While a primary facilitator of the group, I also presented numerous statements at the UN and participated in side events, which included the production of a one-woman play.
For more information on the MGCY, the UNCSD and the other sustainability negotiations, visit:
After participating in the Model United Nations run by Education Africa program in high school and competing at an international level, I later became a tutor for the program. Over two years I served as a provincial tutor to local schools in various provinces throughout South Africa. While primary work was focused on developing participants for a national debate, I also conducted large group sessions to train learners with the skills of public speaking, research and argument development, and speech writing. I gave keynote addresses and adjudicated at various rounds of the competition. For more information on the program, visit:
Mpophomeni Theatre Project – Isithembisa Soxolo, South Africa 2007-2009
For two years, I facilitated a theatre for development project in Mpophomeni, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Collaborating with the Bahá’í Community of uMngeni and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, I ran weekly sessions with a group of youth, focused on discussing social issues through theatre and the creative arts. In these sessions, we were able to identify challenges within society, and rehearse different ways of overcoming them, creating a vision for the community and the individuals within it. After two years of weekly sessions, the group decided they wanted to develop a play to tell the story of their process, and an original play, Roots of My Hope, was written and performed at the Mpophomeni Theatre. Later the play was performed at the National Bahá’í Youth Conference in Johannesburg, 2009. The story was also documented as part of a series of creative approaches to social development and featured on national television.
Anglo American and the Young Sowetan Awards, South Africa 2007
I worked with Anglo American and the Young Sowetan Awards to train English second language speakers from disadvantaged schools in public speaking, speech writing, debating and panel discussions. I worked with schools across South Africa, facilitating both large and small group sessions with learners and schools.