In light of International Development Week in Canada, I attended Humber College’s celebration based on the eighth Sustainable Development Goal: Decent Work and Economic Growth. They developed their programing throughout the week to explore the theme of ‘Developing the Worlds Youth: Innovations in Entrepreneurship and Employment’. In the opening ceremony I enjoyed cultural songs and dances put on by the Humber music students, guest speakers from Save the Children and the MasterCard Foundation, and Humber’s International Development Program faculty.

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Going into this I had no idea what to expect. Yet, in just the first day, I felt the spark in my head, heart, and hands to pursue international development. What they said was true, this week was about creating a call to action and it definitely ignited that desire to act within me.

The organizations on the discussion panel on the first day were from Plan International, Save the Children, CUSO International, and Humber’s entrepreneurship partnership with an Indonesian University. I found that Plan and Save the Children held similar understandings and beliefs as World Vision, which was that child-centered community development is a primary priority in order to break the cycle of poverty.

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It may be obvious to some, but I learned that youth are the most unemployed populations in the world, which is why youth social entrepreneurship is presented as a solution. Adolescents aged 12-18 are of main focus for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to work with as it’s pivotal point in development in which identity and beliefs are being built. As a ‘young adult’, I can relate. I have dreams, but no idea how to move them forward. More importantly, adolescents living in low-income, developing regions are experiencing a widening of the gender and education gap at that time in their lives. Girls may be required to get married and bear children, while boys are required to start work to support their families. One thing was made clear by the speakers – the cycle of poverty cannot be broken without transforming the intergenerational cycle.

This week of presentations was to inspire Canadian youth to become social entrepreneurs since this is a time when we “change makers” could be deciding whether to work for ourselves or for an organization. But, it was also to educate us on the impact of social entrepreneurs in developing areas around the world in creating employment and economic opportunities for their communities. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to entrepreneurship when youth already struggle with access to education, finances, transportation, and support, especially if they are a girl.

Between the guest speakers on the panels and the NGO marketplace with other international development organizations, my eyes were opened to the many ways to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals. It is not as clear as we may think, which is why it’s important to celebrate the small successes, be creative, and keep in mind how these goals are all interconnected to lead the world forward. Most importantly, change starts with inspiring the young generations to be the change they wish to see in this world.

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