Rising in Their Power – A Showcase of Young Leaders Changing Policies Around the Globe

by HCC

On August 31st 2021, the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids hosted their very first youth-powered webinar, Rising in their Power – A Showcase of young leaders changing policies around the globe.

Danielle Walwyn, Advocacy Officer at the HCC (GHAI Childhood Obesity Project), and Mr. Pierre Cooke Jr,  HCCs Youth Technical Advisor participated in the panel alongside Margianta Surahman Juhanda Dinata, Founding member of Indonesian Youth Council for Tobacco Control and Consultant for UNICEF HQ’s global health program to promote NCDs prevention among youth; and Sanele Zulu, Convenor of the South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum. The webinar was moderated by Ms. Lisa Lu, the CEO of International Youth Tobacco Control and CTFK 2020 Youth Advocate of the Year Award Recipient.

This webinar created a space for youth advocates to share their personal experiences in leading public health advocacy campaigns, best practices for meaningful youth engagement; why building the advocacy capacity of youth and youth-serving organizations is key to community success, and successful youth campaigns for policy change in tobacco control and food policy.

Danielle’s contributions targeted the allies – persons in the private, public, and civil society sectors who may be interested in strengthening their engagement with young people and amplifying their voices. She shared lessons learned from the HCC experience, including ways in ways in which the organisation has recruited and engaged young people through technical advisory roles, jobs, internships and consultatory positions. She emphasized HCCs value for young people’s perspective and vision and how they have meaningfully contributed to numerous NCD prevention and control events, regional guiding documents, and policy advocacy campaigns. Danielle shared her personal value for the HCCs mentorship, and provision of leadership, networking and capacity building opportunities for young people.

Pierre’s remarks highlighted the importance of a rights-based approach as a central pillar to advocacy work, as it undeniably justifies why barriers – to health, education, health care services, physical activity – need to be removed.

“…we should not have to beg for health or beg for medicines or beg the government to protect us from predatory marketing. Governments must do this because it is a responsibility, and it is our right.”

Pierre also emphasized young people’s right to health and their right to be engaged in policymaking spaces. In fact, he states that young people’s contributions are critical now more than ever given that “the world you lived in is not the world we live in – in fact our world is exploding

Both Gian and Sanele shared their personal experiences and challenges in the youth-driven movement within the tobacco control. Gian spoke of the dire situation in Indonesia where there are concerning rates of smoking among children, and children involved in tobacco product manufacturing; the youth voice is critical in this conversation. He also used the opportunity to share the Indonesian Youth Council for Tobacco Control: Guiding Document on Meaningful Youth Participation in Tobacco Control which aims to measure meaningful youth engagement. Sanele shared that in his experience mentorship, offering skill development and capacity building opportuntiies have been key to building the confidence of youth advocates and strengthening the youth advocacy movement; his organisation has utilised the train the trainer concept.

All of the panelists highlighted the need for youth and allies across sectors to be involved in policy advocacy. Gian called for “more faces in tobacco control” stating that “Tobacco control should be for everyone”. We in the food policy space echo the same sentiments.

The HCC congratulates Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and the panelists on a successful webinar!

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