We are the heartbeat of change

by Veranika Lukashevich

On September 25th 2015 top world leaders gathered to adopt a set of 17 highly ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which are aimed to be achieved in the course of the next 15 years. Growing from the success and the failures of the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs are thoroughly more inclusive, reassuring that no one is left behind.

The implementation of the SDGs heavily relies on youth, which makes us the agents of change. There are 1.8 billion young people in the world today - a fact, that should automatically grant youth with a much more crucial role in the decision-making process of the world issues. While the SDGs are not legally binding, youth's participation and contribution to the performance of the goals solely rely on their motivation.

Looking at the 2030-plan, one cannot miss the 5th SDG on the subject of gender equality. In 2016 gender inequality still profoundly exists in various modes and needs to be brought to our fullest attention. Gender discrimination creates disadvantages for women, which subsequently makes them feel and be inferior. Girls from all countries in the world experience some form of injustice in their workplace, public or private life, which largely stems from deeply anchored stereotypes and rigid traditional worldviews. The most common form of violence experienced by a woman is by her intimate partner. How can we achieve gender equality in all spheres of our lives, when the closest partner standing to a woman, feels free to degrade her value? There is an urgent need to comprehend that gender equality is not always seen on the surface. It is subliminal and deeply embedded in the mindsets of men and women. We need to start at the root of the matter and reconstruct our attitudes, inflicting that women's rights are human rights. Change can only be initiated, if we are willing to alter our attitudes that go hand in hand with the progress that we deserve. As Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women has stated, finding change also "includes redefining our deeply ingrained perceptions of masculinity" .

At this years' Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, one of the speakers Mohammed Naeem, who is a delegate at the "Man Up" campaign, striving to achieve gender equality, has mentioned something that has stuck with me. He stated that men are only ready to stand up for women if they "appreciate the feminine and the masculine sides of themselves".
We all are more similar and equal than we think.

Additionally, I am convinced that gender equality is closely intertwined with quality education, which represents the 4th Goal on the list. Education should not be considered as privilege, but be given as equal opportunity for all. Quality education enables young adults to participate in dialogues of various topical backgrounds; it encourages their minds to thrive, and question stereotypes and moral judgments.

Young people all over the planet are working hard to achieve gender equality and are generally engaging in the implementation of the SDGs. As one the world's biggest student organizations, AIESEC (who I was lucky to be a part of) is one of them. It directs the attention of young leaders to the issues of today. With the launch of YouthSpeak, a global youth movement, young people are encouraged to voice their opinions on how they envision the world in 2030 and take action.
Our efforts and engagements will build the framework for future generations that will continue the work towards a socially inclusive and secure future. YouthSpeak is set out to transform the workplace, entrepreneurship, and address the issues of education.

In conclusion, I would like to mention the necessity of communication. I understand communication not only as a multifaceted transcultural phenomenon, but also as the necessary tool to find reliable solutions for global challenges. It is important for young people to engage into conversations with their peers as well as global leaders in order to productively find ways to eliminate the world's biggest issues. It is time we understood how spoiled we are, with the digital resources being available and simplifying the dialogue among people. We are ready for change and all we need is to be aware of the power of our influence, use it intelligently and help change the world for better. As Monique Coleman said at this year's Winter Youth Assembly on February 18th: "We are the heartbeat" of change. As one of the delegates of the Winter Youth Assembly, I feel privileged and honored to be one of the people to stand up for change and the world that we deserve.

2016-03-22-1458656242-1928150-Teconomy2015Web_1122232.jpgVeranika Lukashevich is a postgrad student of Translation Studies, AIESEC member and journalist from Vienna, Austria.

This post is a part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with Friendship Ambassadors Foundation following the 2016 Youth Assembly at the United Nations held on February 17-18, 2016. The winter session tackled the role of youth in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To see all posts in the series, click here.

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