Inequities in education deprive youth around the globe of opportunities to improve their livelihoods and contribute to their communities. Limited access to quality education, for example, hinders individual growth and personal development, as well as social, economic and political advancement. Improved educational conditions provide a solid platform for advancement and innovation, significantly impacting a young person’s ability to compete with their peers globally. Of particular interest in this sector is the need to improve opportunities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. Improving access to STEM education is more than promoting STEM subjects. It provides exposure to the value and relevance of creative problem solving to address everyday issues as an alternative to the rote learning method. It also reveals the interconnectivity of learning across disciplines and helps young people, especially young girls, develop new aptitudes that transform their world view and expand their career opportunities and choices!
Today, approximately 120 million young people join the labor market each year, and more than 73 million of them are consistently documented as under or unemployed. Without access to opportunities for income, global youth populations are unable to secure basic necessities for living such as food, water, and shelter. Now more than ever, young people must devise solutions to ensure financial acumen and income opportunities for their livelihoods.
Many people around the world suffer from treatable diseases and health-related issues due to the lack of access to quality and affordable institutions, practitioners, and medicine. Global pharmaceutical companies have been critiqued for inflating the costs of life saving medicines and access to well-trained healthcare professionals is generally limited to middle and upper middle class populations, thereby leaving the economically disadvantaged with very little hope for a healthy life. Young people have a critical role to play in identifying solutions that reduce maternal and child mortality and increase life expectancy for all, irrespective of socioeconomic status. This is a fundamental human right.
Rarely do we see the consequences of unscrupulous environmental decisions take immediate effect. Deforestation and flooding, mining and water source pollution, farming practices and soil quality—all of these relationships have long-term impacts. Individuals, communities, corporations, and governments continue to make decisions that are convenient in the short-term; and yet, have had harmful and damaging effects that are unsustainable for the future. Perhaps more so with the environment than any other theme, young people have an extraordinary responsibility and opportunity to carve out space, innovate, and advocate for equitable and sustainable practices to protect their future.
Art and its “mother”, Culture, surround us all the time in what appears to be a symbiotic and somewhat seamless coexistence. They are powerful forces that have the ability to reinforce ideologies or challenge and transform them altogether. Unfortunately, like everything else, art and culture too often, mirror the social, political and economic inequities that we see in other sectors of society. For instance, the arts and cultures of non-Western, non-capitalist societies have historically been either devalued or co-opted without attribution and compensation to the originators. Despite (or maybe, more appropriately, because of) the insidious nature of this issue, we need young people to share innovative ideas on how to promote true cultural and artistic diversity and inclusion through their individual renditions, documentation of their cultural heritage and projections of their envisioned future!