On 2 December at the United Nations in Geneva (Switzerland), the 2022 Young Activists Summit will honour six outstanding young people for their achievements on the ground. This edition focuses on inclusivity, solidarity and equity.

The fourth Young Activists Summit (#YAS22) will showcase six individuals aged between 19 and 26 and the remarkable impact they have driven in all parts of the world. The 2022 laureates will highlight that solidarity with marginalized groups is beneficial for all, and will invite everyone to stand up for other people’s rights: 

Pashtana Durrani, 24, Afghanistan – Underground schools for girls: Pashtana is the founder of LEARN, a non-profit organization which has empowered 7,000 girls in Afghanistan through education. Since the Taliban’s takeover, she fled to the US from where she has continued to educate girls in underground schools in Afghanistan, and provide them with a standard curriculum in addition to concrete skills (e.g. in graphic design or IT). These skills enable girls to make money – which is decisive within an Afghan household – and to thus avoid being trapped in child marriage.

Zulaikha Patel, 19, South Africa – Anti-racism: Zulaikha became a symbol of the fight against Pretoria Girls High School’s policy regarding black girls’ hair in 2016, at the age of 13. She and her classmates held a demonstration that led to not only a change in school policy, but also an inquiry into allegations of racism at the school. Zulaikha Patel’s actions inspired other protests in South Africa and people worldwide began sharing pictures of their own afros on social media, in solidarity with the female students of Pretoria High School. She recently wrote a children’s book titled “My Coily Crowny Hair” to make sure that no black child ever feels inferior about their hair but rather embraces it.

Sameer Jha, 21, USA – Safe classrooms for LGBTQ+ students: After being bullied throughout elementary and middle school, Sameer founded The Empathy Alliance to make schools safer for LGBTQ+ students like himself. Sameer’s efforts soon expanded to include the entire school district serving over 42 schools & 35,000 students. Sameer Jha wrote a book: “Read This, Save Lives” and was invited to the White House by President Joe Biden.

C’est Prévue Emmy Lusila, 21, DRC – Protecting street children: C’est Prévue founded an orphanage called “La Maison des Anges” which now hosts 13 children – aged between 5 months and 12 years old – who used to live on the streets of Kinshasa. From the age of 13, she started caring for street kids as she took part in meal distributions, and witnessed their poor living conditions. At the age of 17, she found a house to host her orphanage, which is funded by private donors through small financial contributions.

Sebastián Benfeld, 21, Chile – A pollution-free environment & protecting environmental defenders

Sebastián was born in a “sacrificed” zone in Chile – Quintero y Puchuncavi – one of the world’s most polluted areas where oil leaks and pollution from heavy industry are harming the health of local citizens. From a very young age, he has engaged with youth movements to advance environmental protection and defend his community’s rights and health. He also contributed to the closure of a very polluting foundry. Sebastián launched a movement called “Escazú Ahora” which successfully led the Chilean government to adopt the Escazú Treaty, the first international agreement to recognize the right to a healthy environment in Latin America. Sebastián now works on its implementation and on the protection of environmental defenders. 

Keely Cat-Wells, 26, UK/USA – Promoting disabled talent & changing mindsets through entertainment

At the age of 18, Keely founded C Talent to promote disabled talent in the movie and media industries. Left with a permanent “invisible” disability following a series of wrong diagnoses when she was a teenager, Keely places disabled talent into all roles, not just disability-specific roles. She changes the way the world views and defines disability, utilizing the entertainment industry’s massive reach and power. Through her agency, Keely has placed talent in Hollywood movies, incl. with Disney and Google Pixel, and has reached over 50 million people through their productions to date. Keely also offers consulting services in accessibility to many companies including Netflix, Twitter and Virgin Media.

The six above laureates will participate in the Young Activists Summit in person at UN Geneva (Palais des Nations, Switzerland) on 2 December 2022. They will give a press conference and be available for one-on-one interviews.

A number of resources will be made available to journalists closer to the date, including a media kitvideo news releases, field footage, and pictures. Registration will be made available closer to the date.

The Summit is organized by the United Nations Office at Geneva, the NGO dev.tv, Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS), and its GenèveVision label, and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

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