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Common Purpose / 05 July 2023
25 young leaders on why your voice is hands down your greatest asset
“I use my voice today because the people who went ahead of me used theirs.”
A legacy-leaving leader will have many different attributes. Purpose, mindset, courage, empathy, agility… the list goes on. But without one integral thing, all of this is pointless. Their voice, one that can be distinctly heard from all corners, is the most important asset they can possess – once they muster the courage to use it, real impact awaits.
Our 25Under25 Award winners know this better than anyone. They’ve overcome barriers and worked hard in order to make their voices heard. Whether that’s by launching social enterprises, advocating with community groups, or writing extensively about societal and environmental issues that desperately need to be addressed. When they each attended Common Purpose’s Legacy Programme, they learned more about the ways they could use their voice to lead with positive impact, and why this is a crucial part of leadership. This understanding has spurred them forward in their leadership journeys, and they’re now inspiring others by using (and sharing) this knowledge.
“Currently about 16 per cent of people in the world are aged between 15-24, which accounts for about 1.2 billion people,” says one of our award winners John Ebong, a young reformer, medical doctor and global health advocate.
“This is a very diverse large population whose input into today’s world should not be overlooked.”
Francis Koroma, who founded a foundation and became a youth ambassador for Sierra Leone all before the age of 25 is in agreeance: “There are a lot of young people with brilliant and smart ideas that can change the world who will help us prepare for the next generation - we should have a seat at the table.”
Similarly Tri Tran, the founder of FinTech startup WeShare, which tackles poverty and climate change through social funding, reiterates that today’s young leaders are what the world’s future looks like.
“Their opinions and voices are truly important for senior leaders and country leaders who could change their actions and consider long term results, rather than short term gains,” he explains.
Maria Fernanda Marquez Sanchez, who works with a number of migrant and mental health organisations agrees: “Using our voices is critical because we can bring fresh perspectives and energy to our society. Our age doesn’t necessarily mean we are inexperienced or immature. When we bring our talents and skills together with other people we are not just succeeding, we are achieving greatness.”
Aaliyah Phillips, a restorative justice advocate, youth representative and program director at Territory Chicago, adds: “Our young people know exactly what it is that they need, what it is that they want, and why they want it, and that’s why it’s best not to shut them down when they want to talk, but to encourage them to speak, and to also hold those spaces for them to feel safe and share.”
Aaliyah, and each of her fellow 25Under25 are living proof of the impact this can make. Keep scrolling for more about why, and how our 2023 25Under25 winners are using their voice for good.
“It’s important for the youth to advocate for themselves because they are the future, they are the people who are going to keep the world running, and that’s not far from where we are today.” – Prince Jimmar, Co-founder of Rebels for Peace, a youth organisation offering a way out from the circle of violence, retaliation and poverty based in Chicago.
“Young people being able to know what their voice is, and to know where their authentic voice is coming from and what it’s saying, and then feeling empowered to go out and use their voice is critical not only for themselves to feel like they are being authentic to themselves, but also because the decisions that are being made need our opinions and our perspectives.” – Joana Baptista, social entrepreneur, public speaker and activist.
“Using your voice plays a significant role in making sure organisations have a realistic understanding of young people. This means organisations that work with young people are more likely to have a bigger impact with young people.” - Hasibul Hasan, youth social worker, environmental activist and peace advocate.
“Youth engagement in climate talks is crucial, especially in this digital age. As emerging leaders, we need to think beyond the person, we need to think beyond oneself, and we need to value the lives of others. What we know now and what we’ll learn today will help us make better decisions in the future.” - Brian Delos Santos, incoming Executive Director of the Young Environmental Forum.
“I use my voice today because of the people who went ahead of me and used theirs. This is why I use my voice - so that the people who come in behind me can use theirs.” - Titilope Adedokun, founder of SisterlyHQ, a platform empowering Nigerian women to tell their stories, connecting them with resources and opportunities.
“The power of youth voices cannot be underestimated. Young people have unique perspectives and experiences that are often overlooked in decision making processes. But in using their voice, young people can demand to be heard and have a say in the issues that affect them, and their communities.” – Alexis Murillo, entrepreneur, and founder of CultivateYou, which supports first-generation and low-income college students.
“It’s very important when young people use their voices because they are able to advocate for change, they are able to step into key positions to influence decision making, and, they can also support other young people.” - Dimma Muhammed Mawejje, advocate for reducing textile waste and co-founder of Eco Crafts Ug.
“Giving young people the opportunity to express themselves, and to respect other thoughts and ideas is a really powerful tool to create a positive impact, and to start changing communities to form a future you want to live in.” - Jolanda Schuurman, social entrepreneur and founder of Student@Night, which empowers young people to share their stories and address social issues.
“Time is ever evolving, if young people don’t chip in and be innovative in the way we develop and move forward, were just going to get stuck in the past.” - Josh Duncan, co-director of Horizon Studios, which empowers young people through the medium of music.
“Being young doesn’t stop you from being an expert or having a great idea that needs to be shared. It’s unfortunate that sometimes young people feel like they can’t contribute, but the reality is that we need to step up and speak up to make sure our perspectives and ideas are integrated in order to build up the world that we live in.” – Lauryn Mwale, writer, researcher and author of The Shuri Effect: Bridging The Gap For Young Black Women In STEM.
“Young people are the agents of change, we have the duty and responsibility to alert, understand and then tell our stories so that others will understand our own contexts and circumstances in both developing and undeveloped countries.”- Mohammad Fadel Mahri, educator and founder of Light of Indonesia, which supports and provides better access to education for marginalised youth.
“When young people use their voice, it creates value, fairness, equality and inclusivity, which helps to create a more just and equitable world for all.” - Nayab Zahra, AI Engineer and a young environmental scientist.
“Using your voice can really be empowering, giving young people a sense of ownership within their communities and in society more broadly. Young people should be supported to take action and make decisions on their own without adult led processes.” – Neha Jauhari, co-founder of EPIC-Empowering People Initiating Change which operates across India and Ireland.
“Our youth are powerful changemakers. Never doubt our ability to create impact, especially within the communities around you, be a trail blazer and lead change to give others the chance to see the same vision as you.” - Shi Zhou Tan, sustainability advocate and regional sustainability executive (Asia-Pacific) of Bolloré Logistics.
“It is absolutely essential that there is a seat at the table for the younger generation. We should always raise our voices because we are the generation that is most affected by the decisions that our leaders are taking.” - Syed Muhammad Aqeel Abidi, medical student and president of Humanity Initiative, which aims to increase health literacy and provides medical assistance to underserved communities in Pakistan.
“Young people have a unique perspective on the world, and this creates a valuable contribution to our society today. By lending their voice it is very easy for young people to bring attention to issues or challenges in our society compared to other generations.” - Habeeb Abdulrauf, mentor and founder of Digital Gen Foundation, which equips young people from rural communities across Africa with the digital Skills and training needed to be relevant across the globe.
“Anyone can notice if something can be improved, so you may as well speak up if you can identify that, and if that goes well, excellent, and if it doesn’t, you get a lot more chances when you’re young, and you get a lot more people to help when you’re young, so, you might as well.” - Alex Booth, environmental advocate and creator of Business Green Scene at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.
Learn more about our 25Under25 Award winners here.