Business Development

Zimbabweans among 17 UN New Young Leaders for SDGs

Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Youth Envoy

Young Leaders for the SDGs is a flagship initiative of the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth which recognizes exceptional young people around the world

The United Nations on 21 September announced the latest group of 17 Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), during the start of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.

Every two years, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth recognizes 17 young change-makers who are leading efforts to combat the world’s most pressing issues and whose leadership is catalyzing the achievement of the SDGs. Since launching in 2016, the initiative has collectively reached millions of young people around the world.

Following an open call for applications earlier this year, which resulted in more than 5,400 applications from over 190 countries, this next cohort of Young Leaders for the SDGs hail from all corners of the world and work across all pillars of the UN, including sustainable development, human rights, and peace and security.

The group — who are all between the ages of 17 and 29 years old — includes an aspiring astronaut, medical doctor and fashion designer, Paralympic medalist, poet, artists, climate entrepreneurs, peacebuilders, gender justice advocates, and education innovators, among others.

“The 2022 class of Young Leaders for the SDGs represents an incredibly diverse, intersectional, and inspirational group of young people who reflect the very best of global youth activism and advocacy when it comes to challenging the status quo and creating a better world for all,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.

“Even amidst the ongoing pandemic, climate crisis, and global instability, these young people demonstrate immense resilience, resourcefulness and leadership in finding innovative solutions to the world’s biggest challenges.”

The 2022 Class of Young Leaders for the SDGs include:
● Mayada Adil (Sudanese refugee based in France; 29 years old; she/her); Fashion Designer, Medical Doctor & Co-Founder of La Loupe Creative
● Alyssa Carson (USA; 21 years old; she/her): Aspiring Astronaut & Girls in STEM Advocate
● Okan Dursun (Turkey; 26 years old; he/him): Education and Social Entrepreneur & Co-Founder of Twin Science & Robotics
● Emmanuel Ganse (Benin; 24 years old; he/him): Civic and Digital Rights Campaigner & President of Tonafa Institute
● Richa Gupta (India; 26 years old; she/her): Education Innovator, Social Entrepreneur & Co-Founder of Labhya Foundation
● Jamal Hill (USA; 27 years old; he/him): Paralympic Medalist, Disability Rights Advocate & Founder of Swim Up Hill Foundation
● Varaidzo (Vee) Kativhu (Zimbabwe/UK; 24 years old; she/her): Education Activist, YouTuber & Founder of Empowered by Vee
● Gibson Kawago (Tanzania; 27 years old; he/him): Climate Entrepreneur & Founder of WAGA
● Ronelle King (Barbados; 29 years old; she/her): Gender Justice Activist & Founder of Life in Leggings
● Luísa Franco Machado (Brazil; 23 years old; she/they): Digital Rights & Data Justice Activist
● Paul Ndhlovu (Zimbabwe; 23 years old; he/him): HIV/AIDS Advocate & Radio Champion at Zvandiri
● Karimot Odebode (Nigeria; 27 years old; she/her): Poet, Gender Equality Activist & Founder of Black Girl’s Dream
● Leonardo Párraga (Colombia; 29 years old; he/they): Peace Advocate, Artist & Founder of Fundación BogotArt
● Isidora Guzmán Silva (Chile; 17 years old; she/her): Inclusion and Disability Rights Activist & Founder of Encuentra tu Lugar
● Eddy Frank Vasquez (Dominican Republic; 26 years old; he/him): Climate Activist & Founder of Jeventud Sostenible
● Hanyuan (Karen) Wang (China; 26 years old; she/her): Climate Tech Entrepreneur, Researcher & Founding Member of Carbonbase
● Heela Yoon (Afghan refugee based in the UK; 24 years old; she/her): Peace Advocate & Founder of Afghan Youth Ambassadors for Peace

A High-Level Selection Committee, composed of a group of influential leaders — representing national governments, civil society, the entertainment industry, the private sector, and beyond — provided invaluable inputs and feedback as part of the selection process.

The Selection Committee included: Connor Franta (Social Media Influencer, Artist, and Author), Sônia Guajajara (Indigenous Activist and Politician), Richard Curtis (Screenwriter, Director, and Founder of Project Everyone), Adam Met (Member of AJR and Executive Director of Planet Reimagined), H.E. Shamma Al Mazrui (UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs), and Nikhil Taneja (Co-Founder and CEO of Yuvaa), among others.

More information on the Young Leaders for the SDGs, including the full profiles of the Young Leaders and their commitments to advancing the SDGs, is available at www.un.org/youthenvoy/2022class.

About the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth

In 2017, the UN Secretary-General appointed Jayathma Wickramanayake of Sri Lanka as his Special Envoy on Youth and as the youngest senior official in the history of the organization.

Ms. Wickramanayake’s mandate is to harmonize the UN system efforts on youth development, enhance the UN response to youth needs, advocate for the development needs and rights of young people, as well as to bring the work of the United Nations on
youth closer to them. The Envoy on Youth also acts as the advisor to and the representative of the Secretary-General on youth-related matters.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende