Miranda Wolford is one of the 15-year-old activists taking action in 2015 to #DemandBetter from our leaders and to build the world she wants to live in.
With the goals for our world’s future on the line, 2015 is going to be a momentous year. This is the year when our new set of sustainable development goals will be put into place by global leaders, setting the tone for the action we will take over the course of the next fifteen years to benefit the wealth of humanity.
Beginning in the year 2000, the United Nations decided upon 8 attainable goals to strive to achieve in the next 15 years. These were referred to as the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. Some of these goals included promoting gender equality and eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Revolutionary results were achieved, such as cutting extreme poverty in half and reaching the tipping point in the fight against HIV/AIDs. Yet, we still have many more steps we need to take in order to achieve overall success and eradicate extreme poverty.
In 2000, I was still in my infancy, unaware of the trials and tribulations faced by other people, some as young as myself, around the world. However, I’m 15 now, and my eyes have been opened to the many struggles children and teenagers my age face. In 15 years, I will be 30. The goals that the UN sets this year will not only significantly impact my future, but the futures of millions of teenagers worldwide. This is why it is largely our responsibility to make sure that global issues, like lack of universal education and gender inequalities, are addressed in this year’s sustainable development goals.
Thousands of influential nonprofits and organizations have realized the high stakes of this critical time and have started action/2015. Action/2015 calls upon each generation, particularly the youth, to raise our voices to let global leaders know what issues matter most to us. In major cities around the world on January 15th, 15-year-olds gathered to launch action/2015 by meeting with government officials and the media to discuss what we want the world to look like in 2030.
I was fortunate enough to travel to Washington D.C. to participate in this launch, partnering up with ONE, Save the Children, Girl Up, the UN Foundation and many more. Students from all over the US, Rwanda, and Nigeria teamed up to discuss agriculture, energy access, global health, and female empowerment. We were – and are – a major force to be reckoned with.
I know, I know. A group of teenagers? What could we possibly do to resolve such complex issues? The common misconception about teenagers is that we are all “lazy” and caught up in our own little world of social media and sleep, but I’m writing this article to debunk this myth. More than ever, teenagers, for the vast majority, are ready and able to make a change. That’s half the equation. What we need now is the irrevocable support of our international governments, organizations, and engines for change.
The other question I am quite familiar with is: do leaders in governments, organizations, and the media actually listen to teenagers? From firsthand experience, the answer is yes. On launch day, we excitedly loaded into our bus dressed for success, and journeyed to foreign territories for the common teenager: the esteemed World Bank and the equally impressive U.S. State Department.
Walking into the World Bank was probably the most daunting, intimidating, yet exciting experience of my life so far. We were on our way to meet with the Senior Vice President, Mr. Cyril Muller, to discuss our goals in sustainable development and how we can partner to take action. It was my pleasure to speak on female empowerment, and its roots in education.
My speech summarized the various trials and tribulations facing girls and women in developing countries, and the astonishing effect it carries in the socioeconomics of these regions. Right now, the blunt fact of the matter is that 31 MILLION girls in developing countries do not have the option or means to go to school. By 2030, we want to be able to look back on this statistic as a somber reminder of the past – not the present.
Stunting a young girl’s educational growth severely limits their career options as well. Fewer girls and women grow up to have careers as doctors or nurses. This is one of the many contributing factors to the lack of healthcare for girls and women. For every 38 newborn children in sub-Saharan Africa, one of them will be born without a mother due to lack of resources in maternal health care. One child will go motherless just because their mother could not receive the required medical attention they needed.
What was most astounding to me was just how dedicated to the cause Mr. Muller and his team were. After giving my speech, not only did he agree with my points, but he took the time to thoughtfully and carefully respond to my inquiries, giving detailed steps to take action. This was my first time speaking in the presence of such an important person in international affairs, but my fears were quickly assuaged as I was filled with a sense of pride and motivation. As teenagers, we were able to speak to senior members in the World Bank and actually receive a meaningful action plan. Before speaking there, I was doubtful that we could raise our voices loud enough to make such a difference.
Reflecting on my time in D.C., there is no doubt in my mind that us teenagers play a crucial role in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty. It is our duty and responsibility to utilize each tool we are given to raise our voices.
Now, how do we get involved?
Many teenagers have started clubs and organizations at their schools to raise awareness for these causes. I started Peace Corps Club, focusing on global awareness and understanding, at my school, and it has been so rewarding to involve high school students in global issues and see them become incredibly passionate about them as a result.
It’s no secret that teenagers are the driving force of social media, so who better to lead social media campaigns for change? Through the use of hashtags like #action2015 or #DemandBetter, we can get our message across at an international level. Almost every organization has some form of social media, from the World Bank to the United Nations, so it is now easier than ever for us to directly engage with these institutions.
From my personal experience, it has become quite clear to me that us teenagers can have a significant impact on our world. Now is the time for us to make our move to raise the awareness for our sustainable development goals through action/2015. I’ve pledged to make my voice heard in female empowerment and education; what’s your pledge?