Youth Day: What is a safe space to you?



This International Youth Day, we celebrate how “safe spaces” can lead to a healthier, more sustainable and more equitable future for young people.

Celebrations in Nairobi took place on 10 August, where safe spaces – from digital spaces to places free from sexual harassment - were discussed and advocated among youth at every level.

Among delegates attending the sessions were sixteen Youth Climate Leaders. They came to Nairobi to participate in the Youth Day celebrations on their immersion tour with the Youth Climate Leaders programme.

The programme empowers diverse leaders from all over the world with leadership and entrepreneurial skills to address climate change, which is among the most pressing issues facing youth today.

Photo: Marina Porto Amador from Brazil. Credit: Georgina Smith / UN Environment 

Twenty-three-year-old Marina Porto Amador from Brazil was among youth leaders taking part in discussions. “To me, a safe place is where you can be open to expose your ideas, expose your opinions, and even your vulnerabilities without fear,” she said.  

“Climate change is very important for us because we have exponential population and consumption growth in the world today,” she said. “That comes with a huge responsibility. We need to think about this for sustainable development. As youth, this is the time to expose our ideas.”

Photo: Climate Youth Leader from Kenya, Unelker Maoga, credit: Georgina Smith / UN Environment 

Kenyan Unelker Maoga, also twenty-three, said that for her, a safe space entails a sustainable future: “Addressing the needs of people who are vulnerable and using resources in a manner that will allow future generations to access them,” she said.

“Changing weather patterns affects 70 percent of Africans who happen to be farmers. Taking action today is more important than ever to ensure a more sustainable future – for example by investing in solar energy,” she added.

Photo: Nineteen-year-old Muhammad Haysam Azhar. Credit: Georgina Smith / UN Environment 

Nineteen-year-old Muhammad Haysam Azhar said: “I think we need to take a step ahead and think of brave spaces. We need to lobby for support in our own countries, to create an incentive structure for investment to take place, to bring investment to the clean tech space.”

“The fate of humanity depends on how the leaders of tomorrow engage with leaders of today,” he said. Complex solutions are needed to solve complex problems, he said, noting that youth engagement is key to bridge existing gaps between law makers, the corporate sector and government.  

This story is part of a series featuring inspirational young people and how they are striving for a better, healthier environment for all, powered by Covestro. Inspired to be a United Nations Environment Young Champion of the Earth? Follow this page for updates and in 2019, apply to take your environmental idea to the next level.