The Future belongs to the Tropics
Celebrating International Youth Day: Youth for the Tropics
In conjunction with International Youth Day, the Mahathir Science Award Foundation (MSAF) and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) jointly organized two webinars themed ‘Youth for the Tropics’ on 12 and 13 August 2020. The webinars aimed to create awareness among youth in the Tropics of the issues vital to them and celebrate youths who have made valuable contributions through science, policy engagement and social entrepreneurship in solving problems of the Tropics.
The webinar on 12 August covered the broad scope of how youth could contribute to the Tropics with a focus on climate change and harnessing and protecting natural resources. The webinar was divided into a morning session which had a Malaysian focus and an afternoon session which had an international focus. The sessions were moderated by Dr Nurfashareena Muhamad a research fellow of SEADPRI at UKM and Dr Chai Lay Ching, Chair of YSN-ASM respectively.
The morning session kicked off with a passionate speech by Qyira Yusri from UNDI 18 (co-founders of Parlimen Digital) on how and why youth should engage with policy. This was followed by a session on tackling climate change in Malaysia from an academic’s (Dr. Sharina Abdul Halim from UKM) perspective and the perspective of a youth-led movement (by Syaqil Suhaimi of the Malaysian Youth Delegation). The next session in the morning featured an interesting range of speakers from NGOs like EcoKnights (Emirul Redzuan) and Partners of Community Organizations in Sabah (Noridah Samad) as well as the social enterprise Green Yards (Chia Wen Shin). They all spoke about how their respective organisations harnessed and/or protected natural resources in Malaysia. The morning session ended with insightful presentations by Nelleita Omar, a former special advisor at the Ministry of Youth and Sport, on youth aspirations for 2050 and Aimi Suraya, an analyst at Akademi Sains Malaysia focused on youth issues under the ASEAN Foresight Alliance.
The session in the afternoon was truly global with representatives from different regions in the tropics. Stephen Simon, a student from the University of South Pacific in the Solomon Islands shared a Pacific Islands’ perspective on climate change, while Heeta Lakhani from India spoke about her work as a climate educator and focal point of YOUNGO, the official youth constituency at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The next session on harnessing and protecting natural resources consisted of presentations from young people representing different organisations involved in the space. Christine Magaju from World Agroforestry in Kenya shared on farmer–centered agricultural solutions used in Kenya for dryland smallholder farmers. Meanwhile, Htet Lin Naing talked about his organization Mangrove Ranger, a youth-led initiative based in Myanmar that promotes mangrove conservation. Lincoln Lee spoke about his award-winning social enterprise called Rice Inc which provides smallholder rice farmers with sustainable agritech to reduce wastage in the rice supply chain.
The webinar on 12 August concluded with an interesting and diverse panel discussion with several speakers from the previous sessions as well as Prof. Raphael Kweyu of Kenyatta University, Kenya (an expert on Natural Resource Conflicts, Agriculture and Indigenous Knowledge) on the challenges in tackling climate change and how youth could collaborate to create a better future for the Tropics.
The webinar on 13 August had a specific focus on social entrepreneurship for building community resilience to disasters and climate change. The webinar was moderated by Mohd Khairul Zain Ismail of SEADPRI-UKM and Jasreena Kaur from the Malaysian Youth Delegation. To set up the discussions on social entrepreneurship and provide context to participants, the webinar began with an insightful session with the enablers of social enterprises. This included the government agency MaGIC (represented by Redza Shahid) which supports social enterprises; Yayasan Hasanah (represented by Ivy Wong Abdullah), a grant-making foundation; the Royal University of Phnom Penh (represented by Nao Vannet) which conducts studies on how best to empower social entrepreneurs; and the Selangor Disaster Management Unit (represented by Ahmad Fairuz Mohd Yusof) which is seeking to use new technology for disaster risk reduction in Selangor.
This session was followed by presentations from youth social entrepreneurs from four different countries, all of which contribute to building community resilience through disaster risk reduction in the Tropics. Firstly, Septian Firmansyah of Sky Volunteer, Indonesia, spoke about his social enterprise that performs damage aerial assessment for disasters in Indonesia. Next, Dr Ranit Chatterjee of RIKA, India, spoke about how his social enterprise embodies the concept of ‘sci-preneurship’ meanwhile Pradip Khatiwada of Youth Innovation (YI) Lab, Nepal, shared how he and his youth-led team at YI-Lab develop cutting edge tools for disaster information management in Nepal. Last but not least, Khairuddin Othman of Alphat Training & Resources in Malaysia shared Alphat’s work on ensuring community preparedness for emergencies.
The webinar concluded with a panel session moderated by Prof. Joy Jacqueline Pereira FASc. The panel session included speakers from the day, as well as Shazlinda Md. Yusof whose expertise is in social entrepreneurship and Dr Repaul Kanji who is the lead for U-Inspire Alliance’s working group on social entrepreneurship. Shazlinda shared some useful advice for future social entrepreneurs while Dr Repaul painted a comprehensive roadmap for social entrepreneurs within the disaster risk reduction space.
All the youth social entrepreneurs that featured in the webinar have been registered under the Register of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Social Entrepreneurs which is part of an IDRC project. This Register along with inputs from the webinar will contribute towards the development of a DRR Social Entrepreneurs Handbook and Roadmap to tackle prevailing knowledge gaps on DRR social entrepreneurship and benefit young entry-level social entrepreneurs.
In conclusion, both events successfully promoted the notion of youth as changemakers in the Tropics. With a total of 398 registrants on Zoom for the two webinars combined and participants from 30 countries watching, this webinar maintains the global reach of our previous webinars. Active promotion of this webinar on social media has also led to an increased following on our social media accounts, particularly among youth. Preliminary feedback from our online feedback forms has also indicated that all viewers learnt something new from our webinars, with some even having changed their own perspectives as a result. We look forward to maintaining this momentum, expanding our outreach and increasing awareness of TropSc 2021 in future events.