On Wednesday, the UN announced the 2022 cohort of Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals, recognizing their efforts to bring about a fairer future for people and the planet.
Every two years, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth picks out young change-makers who are at the forefront of attempts to combat the world’s most pressing issues, and whose leadership is catalyzing the achievement of the SDGs.
The current cohort of leaders were chosen following an open call for applications earlier this year, which resulted in more than 5,400 applications from over 190 countries. Since launching in 2016, the initiative has collectively reached millions of young people around the world.
The 17 Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are a diverse, highly accomplished group, all between the ages of 17 and 29, who hail from all corners of the world and work across all pillars of the UN, including sustainable development, human rights, and peace and security.
Among them are an aspiring astronaut, a poet, and a Paralympic medalist. Others range from artists to climate entrepreneurs, and education innovators.
“The 2022 class of Young Leaders for the SDGs represents an incredibly diverse, intersectional and inspirational group of young people who reflect the very best of global youth activism and advocacy when it comes to challenging the status quo and creating a better world for all,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.
“Even amidst the ongoing pandemic, climate crisis and global instability, these young people demonstrate immense resilience, resourcefulness and leadership in finding innovative solutions to the world’s biggest challenges”.
A safe space for women
In 2016, Ronelle King, a multi-award-winning Gender Justice Activist from Barbados, founded the #LifeInLeggings hashtag. Created as a safe space for women who had experienced sexual violence to express themselves, it evolved into a grassroots organization: women, encouraged by solidarity, were empowered to speak out on their social media platforms about their experiences.
Ms. King has gone on to play a major role in the Reclaim Our Streets women’s solidarity march, and Pink Parliament, which seeks to increase women’s participation in decision-making spaces, which was awarded a 2021 Nelson Mandela-Graca Machel Innovation Award in the category ‘Democratizing governance processes and systems’.
Her other awards include the 2017 Youth Hero Award, the 2018 Queen’s Young Leader Award by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, the 2022 Future Island Leader Award and the 2022 Ignite Caribbean 30 under 30 Changemaker Award.
Jamal Hill represented the USA as a swimmer at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games, winning a bronze medal. He is dedicated to helping others learn how to swim, and cut the number of people who drown each year.
Mr. Hill uses his global platform to provide swimming education resources, opportunities, and inspiration to millions around the world, including young people with disabilities.
Mr. Hill is the founder of the Swim Up Hill Foundation, which focuses on reaching low-and middle-income communities of colour both nationally and internationally that are at the greatest risk of drowning. To date, the organization has established partnerships across the United States, as well as international programmes in Colombia, Portugal, and within countries in Northern Africa.
Health, fashion, and human rights
Mayada Adil is a Sudanese medical doctor, fashion designer, woman rights advocate for health equity and a refugee rights activist. Based in France, she has worked on campaigns focused on ending gender-based violence, specifically against female genital mutilation in Sudan and Mali.
Ms. Adil was selected by the French Foreign Ministry to represent Sudanese youth at the Paris Conference for Sudan in 2021, and she has represented Sudanese women at the Generation Equality Forum, where she addressed the importance of integrating refugee women in societies and communities across France.
The LaLoupeCreative artistic platform, co-founded by Ms. Adil, supports refugee artists around the world, providing them with an opportunity to participate in a training programme that can help develop their skills and create “art clinics”.
The 2022 Class of Young Leaders for the SDGs
A High-Level Selection Committee, composed of a group of influential leaders —representing national governments, civil society, the entertainment industry, private sector, and beyond — provided invaluable inputs and feedback as part of the selection process.
The Selection Committee included: Connor Franta (Social Media Influencer, Artist and Author), Sônia Guajajara (Indigenous Activist and Politician), Richard Curtis (Screenwriter, Director and Founder of Project Everyone), Adam Met (Member of AJR and Executive Director of Planet Reimagined), H.E. Shamma Al Mazrui (UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs), and Nikhil Taneja (Co-Founder and CEO of Yuvaa), among others.
Below is the full list of 2022 winners.
- Mayada Adil (Sudanese refugee based in France; 29 years old; she/her); Fashion Designer, Medical Doctor & Co-Founder of La Loupe Creative,
- Alyssa Carson (USA; 21 years old; she/her): Aspiring Astronaut & Girls in STEM Advocate,
- Okan Dursun (Turkey; 26 years old; he/him): Education and Social Entrepreneur & Co-Founder of Twin Science & Robotics,
- Emmanuel Ganse (Benin; 24 years old; he/him): Civic and Digital Rights Campaigner & President of Tonafa Institute,
- Richa Gupta (India; 26 years old; she/her): Education Innovator, Social Entrepreneur & Co-Founder of Labhya Foundation,
- Jamal Hill (USA; 27 years old; he/him): Paralympic Medalist, Disability Rights Advocate & Founder of Swim Up Hill Foundation,
- Varaidzo (Vee) Kativhu (Zimbabwe/UK; 24 years old; she/her): Education Activist, YouTuber & Founder of Empowered by Vee,
- Gibson Kawago (Tanzania; 27 years old; he/him): Climate Entrepreneur & Founder of WAGA,
- Ronelle King (Barbados; 29 years old; she/her): Gender Justice Activist & Founder of Life in Leggings,
- Luísa Franco Machado (Brazil; 23 years old; she/they): Digital Rights & Data Justice Activist,
- Paul Ndhlovu (Zimbabwe; 23 years old; he/him): HIV/AIDS Advocate & Radio Champion at Zvandiri,
- Karimot Odebode (Nigeria; 27 years old; she/her): Poet, Gender Equality Activist & Founder of Black Girl’s Dream,
- Leonardo Párraga (Colombia; 29 years old; he/they): Peace Advocate, Artist & Founder of Fundación BogotArt,
- Isidora Guzmán Silva (Chile; 17 years old; she/her): Inclusion and Disability Rights Activist & Founder of Encuentra tu Lugar,
- Eddy Frank Vasquez (Dominican Republic; 26 years old; he/him): Climate Activist & Founder of Jeventud Sostenible,
- Hanyuan (Karen) Wang (China; 26 years old; she/her): Climate Tech Entrepreneur, Researcher & Founding Member of Carbonbase,
- Heela Yoon (Afghan refugee based in the UK; 24 years old; she/her): Peace Advocate & Founder of Afghan Youth Ambassadors for Peace.