Why world leaders need to listen to young people

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Today’s youth are the changemakers of tomorrow, and it’s crucial for world leaders to uplift their voices so we can change the world for the better. This is why ONE’s Youth Ambassadors from Italy decided to make sure that their members of parliament hear their voices and answer some very important questions about how we can end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our YAs are explaining why it’s so important to talk about global health when Italy is still struggling with COVID-19 and why it is crucial to ensure equitable vaccine access for all.

This is what YA Sara Conte had to say.

As an activist, why is it important for you to speak about global health?

I have the privilege to live in a country where the vaccination process has already started some months ago, and where even if our health system is not the best in the world, at the moment, it is working the right way. For example, If anything happened to me, I know, I would receive the necessary care I need. Unfortunately, being aware of this privileged position is not enough.

Support and consciousness from all of us is necessary — Italian citizens have suffered and continue to suffer from this pandemic, but they are not the only ones. In the same way, other people are struggling outside Italian borders, with the only difference being that we have access to the vaccine and they don’t. We are all connected somehow, but if we continue putting ourselves first, we will never see an end to the pandemic.

Why do you think that equitable access to vaccines should be guaranteed to all?

For example, during a lobby meeting I had with a senator, I expressed my worries about the situation of students around the world. Education is the key to assuring a bright future, but now many girls and boys, all around the world, can’t go to school because of the pandemic. The problem is that the virus is creating huge differences and inequalities: there are students who can continue learning, but many others who don’t have either the tools or access to online classes at all to do so —obviously, it depends on where you live.

Also, I think about all the workers who couldn’t continue their activities during the last months due to pandemic-related closures and lost their jobs. People need to go back to work in order to sustain their families and lead a life of dignity and opportunity

I strongly believe in my values and equitable access to vaccines should be guaranteed to all because we are all equal and we should all have the same rights.

Why is it important to you that your representatives hear your voice on these matters?

It is very important that they listen to us, young people, because we are aware of our actions and our requests. Something I really appreciate about what I do with my fellow ONE Youth Ambassadors is that we never stop getting information and everything we say is based on facts and real statistics —I’m sure influential politicians can learn a lot from us when we point out issues they are maybe not aware of and they can discover what really matters to us.

All of the decisions they make have consequences in our lives, and all the decisions they don’t make have consequences as well.

In my opinion, our generation is lucky to be more global-oriented and open-minded, so we can guide representatives who still are focused just on the country they are from and their interests, and lead them through a human rights-based and inclusive attitude.

What lesson did you learn from speaking with your representatives in Parliament?

Firstly, I learned that preparation and plenty of knowledge on the topic you are talking about is fundamental. Anything can happen. Representatives may ask questions and we have to give them the right answers with proper information.

Secondly, I now understand that a meeting with a representative is not about persuading them to do what we expect from them; it is quite the opposite. It is about showing them the current reality through our eyes, another perspective they don’t often consider.

I became aware that even if they are not always easily approachable, it is not impossible to talk and have the opportunity to express our ideas to them. This gave me the strength not to stop what I’m doing. In fact, after that, I look forward to meeting many other representatives in the future.

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