Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Legacy Award judge shares her thoughts on how dreams are changing the lives of others.
“As Africans, we must dream big,” my Gogo (Grandmother) said to me one evening, as we sat inside our small hut in my village in Zimbabwe, where Gogo was raising me. I was too young to understand her words, so I asked her to explain. “Because there are plenty of us Africans, my dear child, so your dream has to be big enough for all of us,” Gogo continued, “Your dream must be a dream for others.” It was the first time I became aware of how as an African I was supposed to dream. I understood that my dream also needed to be a dream for my family, my community and fellow Africans; that my dream should improve the lives of others; and that as long as my dream benefitted others it would ultimately benefit me. This and other pivotal moments in my childhood sparked my dream to become a humanitarian, ultimately leading to a career with the United Nations.
“As Africans, we must dream big”.
Now, having spent more than two decades working to improve the lives of others around the world, I continue to be inspired by the incredible work of youth activists. Their passion and conviction in standing up for what is right is a true testament of what is possible, serving as a constant reminder that it is often the unsung heroes who end up changing the world. Through my engagement with The Diana Award, I have been humbled to meet some of these unsung heroes; from Maya Ghazal, advocating for the rights of refugees and migrants across the UK; to Victoria Ibiwoye, who founded the ‘One African Child Foundation’ to address the inequality in education in Nigeria; to Tanya Chadha, a grass-root social worker and rehabilitator working to protect underprivileged young girls living in slums in India from exploitation and sexual abuse; and so many others.
“Now, having spent more than two decades working to improve the lives of others around the world, I continue to be inspired by the incredible work of youth activists“.
So, today as we celebrate International Youth Day, I invite each of you to dare to dream a dream for others, just like Maya, Victoria and Tanya. Their dreams are changing the lives of others in their communities, and so too can your dreams. Whilst we currently face enormous challenges; from dealing with the intersectionality of inequalities based on race, gender, sexuality, disability, class, etc., to grappling with global crisis’ like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic – as the largest youth population in history (1.8 billion) you have an unprecedented opportunity to become symbols of hope, by taking action to improve the lives of those in need. More than ever the pandemic is a reminder of the inescapable truth; that we are all part of a collective, that we are all in it together, and that our well-being as individuals depends on the well-being of us all as a whole.
“We are often taught that a dream should be a dream for oneself, for our individual pursuits”.
We are often taught that a dream should be a dream for oneself, for our individual pursuits. But right now, the world needs you. We need more youth to rise to the challenges that we face and make the world better for all of us. Imagine what is possible if you all dared to make your dream a dream for others? When Pakistani youth activist, Malala Yousafzai was shot for going to school, she dared to dream a dream for others, demanding the right to education for all girls around the world. When Swedish youth activist, Greta Thunberg, witnessed the devastation caused by climate change, she dared to dream a dream for others, galvanizing global action to make all of our lives better. When Malawian youth activist, Memory Banda, fought against child marriage, she dared to dream a dream for others, successfully advocating to make child marriage illegal for all girls and boys in her home country of Malawi. That is the kind of change that is possible when people like you dare to dream a dream for others – the whole world changes.
So, this International Youth Day, let’s all dare to dream a dream for others. Taking action is simple and can begin with three steps:
1_Start Local: Long before Malala, Greta and Memory became global youth activists, they took action first in their own communities. Start by learning the facts; what are issues impacting those in your community? Then identify a cause that you are most passionate about.
2_Take Action: There are many ways to take action; start your own project at school or in your community to champion your cause; volunteer at a local charity addressing the cause; donate to your cause.
3_Inspire Others: It takes all of us to create change, so share stories about your cause on social media and offline and inspire others to do the same. Looking for inspiration? Visit https://diana-award.org.uk/ to see actions of other youth activists from around the world.
Happy International Youth Day!
Elizabeth Nyamayaro is an award-winning humanitarian and former United Nations Senior Advisor on Gender Equality. Born in Zimbabwe, Elizabeth has worked at the forefront of global development for over two decades improving the lives of underserved populations and has held leadership roles at the World Bank, World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and UN Women. She is also the founder of HeForShe, one of the world’s largest solidarity movement for gender equality – and author of an upcoming memoir, ‘I am a Girl from Africa.’
Twitter: @e_nyamayaro | Instagram: @enyamayaro