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A changemaker in a changing world

Habon Ali

Global Health student Habon Ali is proud to be a youth changemaker advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 


October 9, 2020

Global Health student Habon Ali recently participated in the WHO virtual side event at the 75th United Nations General Assembly. The session – Youth and Health: Changemakers in the Changing World – focused on young people’s role in health in a world that’s changed drastically by the COVID pandemic.

Ali spoke about her experiences with youth engagement in Canada, as part of the Prime Minister's Youth Council and having contributed to Canada's First National Youth Policy.

Here’s what she had to say about the experience.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing young people today?

Currently, we’re facing many disruptions: A COVID-19 crisis, racial justice crisis, and a climate crisis. Youth are on the frontline as essential workers. They’re volunteers, students, health care professionals. Youth are innovating to build a better future – one we can't even begin to imagine right now. Youth are advocating, reinforcing community-building efforts and creating health promotion resources to support each other.

But often, youth are met with disdain and are labelled as irresponsible and selfish, which in most cases could be furthest from the truth, Unfortunately, instead of collaborating with youth to get effective public health messages out, many places in the world are continuing to exclude youth from decision-making spaces.

When given the opportunity, youth can drive community behavioural change with the support of health leaders. The youth voice and approach are critical to creating health promotion resources and making information accessible to youth populations so that they can make informed decisions for their health

What does your role as a member of Canada PM Youth Council entail?

In 2018, PM Justin Trudeau appointed me to his Youth Council, a non-partisan group that advises the PM and the Government of Canada.

I was privileged to advise and connect the federal government on issues impacting youth in my community including gun violence, anti-black racism, and access to youth opportunities. Through this experience, I aided in the creation of Canada's first-ever National Youth Policy. Alongside an incredible group of young Canadians, we travelled all over the country to speak with youth to learn about Canada and the world they want. We discussed leadership, health and wellness, innovation, skills and learning, employment, truth and reconciliation and environment and climate action.

Why is it important for youth to participate in the SDGs? What action can they take?

A central and transformative promise of the SDGs is to “Leave No One Behind.”

Currently, the world has the largest generation of young people at approximately 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10-24 years old. We can’t achieve SDG without considering the needs, inputs, direction and leaders ship of over a billion people on this planet.

Under the leadership of Dr. Tedros, who is an incredible adult ally, the WHO is committed to ensuring that youth have space and rightful resources to thrive.