By Naomi Yakawich
Over 500 university students participated in an Earth Day forum at Sokoine University in Morogoro, Tanzania to bring awareness and a sense of global responsibility to inspire environmental action. On April 22, Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Tanzania joined Raleigh Tanzania in a forum drawing young leaders from many community organizations, including Tanzania Agriculture Economics and Agribusiness student association (TAGRESA), Tengeneza Generation (TEG), Economic Diplomacy Training Academy (EDTA) and World Merit among other media outlets.
A prominent area of focus in the UN established Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including “responsible consumption and production” and “climate action,” the opportune Earth Day event highlighted the role of the young generation and new technology in contributing to the 2030 SDGs. Jackson Mutema, chairperson of TAGRESA, emphasized the impact of youth saying, “65% of the Tanzania population are youth. If they are not well organized on how to use resources, they may end up causing environmental disasters by getting involved in charcoal burning and using poor agricultural methods that become dangerous to world survival.”
John Emmanuel, program officer at Tengeneza Generation – an organization aiming to plant more than 50,000 trees across the country to combat rising environmental disasters in Tanzania – drew a drastic picture of the challenges, from severe droughts to flooding rainfall. Emmanuel invited every youth present to support environmental protection by joining the campaign to organize tree planting on their campus and communities.
With ever-expanding social media platforms, young people have the opportunity to connect with influential people around the world and let their voice be heard. Students at the forum were encouraged to become advocates and examples of moral and innovative leadership, inspiring others to be the change they desire in their local communities. Rose Mbaga from World Merit recommended that the students take initiative to participate in and follow up with youth-based international meetings, seeking more opportunities on an international platform to expand their leadership network.
In agreement with the call to action by key speakers, representative of GPF Tanzania, Dickson Kamala, underscored the significance of citizen involvement, both through hands-on action and social media interaction in achieving the SDGs, participating in a healthy democracy and encouraging moral leadership.
GPF’s proactive approach to involving Tanzania’s large youth population is manifested in its current peace building campaign “Vijana Na Amani,” which is translated to Youth for Peace. The campaign aims to bring together young people under common principles and values that inspire moral and innovative capacities to counter the critical issue of youth radicalization and violent extremism gaining notoriety in Tanzania.
If influential young people respect the laws of their community based on their recognized shared values and ethics, the entire community can create a culture where youth are respected, said Kamala. This opens the door to the innovative perspectives of youth leadership in local communities.