On Wednesday, October 17th I will be travelling to The Hague to represent Porter Novelli at the 2018 One Young World Summit, along with my colleague Misha.
There was an air of friendly competition in the office when we found out that Porter Novelli would be sending two delegates on the opportunity of a lifetime to The Hague. Applicants had to be under thirty and were asked to submit a proposal for a campaign or business idea that worked towards one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The One Young World summit takes place over four days and consists of plenary sessions, workshops and networking opportunities that allow delegates to meet and learn from other young leaders from around the globe.
I toiled over my proposal for longer than I care to admit, meticulously designing a PowerPoint presentation on an issue of great personal importance to me.
I have Ocular Albinism, and have become increasingly aware of the shocking disparity that exists between my comfortable life in London and the experiences faced by people with albinism in other parts of the world.
Living in the UK I have access to a quality education, free eyecare and sunscreen on the NHS, and a society where I am accepted. In many parts of Africa however, people with albinism experience violence, human rights violations and increased mortality rates due to a lack of education on the increased risk of skin cancer and lack of access to sunscreen.
Whilst conducting research for my entry, I came to learn that the situation was even more grave than I had originally realised. The average person with albinism in East Africa dies by age 30 from skin cancer, and only 2 percent of people with albinism in Sub Saharan Africa live to age 40. I’m 24 – and reading that if I’d been born in another part of the world then I’d most likely be dead in six years unsettled me deeply.
Even more shockingly – there is a dangerous epidemic of attacks and murders of people with albinism in these areas. In Tanzania, people with albinism are called zeru zeru, meaning “ghosts.” It is assumed by some that these “ghosts” bleed a different colour, or even that they are immortal. These dangerous beliefs incite the brutal attacks against people with albinism. A baby born with albinism may be considered a curse and be killed, and many husbands desert their wives when they give birth to a child with albinism.
Witchdoctors take advantage of this ignorance and intentionally fuel beliefs that people with albinism possess magical qualities. They spread the lie that the body parts of people with albinism used in charms and potions bring wealth, power and good luck.
There is an increased demand for body parts of people with albinism in the lead-up to elections when people running for office turn to witch doctors for good luck potions. The people who harvest the parts are usually impoverished and willing to do the unthinkable in order to make money .These criminals can gain up to the equivalent of £60,000 for each body.
My entry consisted of a series of suggestions surrounding these issues. These included: distributing information dispelling dangerous myths surrounding Albinism alongside campaign materials during elections, a pledge by sun care companies to donate a certain percentage value of products to those in need, a glasses and sunglasses donation scheme, pre-natal education programmes to reduce infant abandonment and mortality, and a worldwide campaign for pro bono support from top legal firms in prosecuting buyers in the illegal body parts trade for the first time in history. My suggested solutions to this horrifying situation can be encompassed in goal 3: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, and goal 16: peace, justice and strong institutions.
After nervously submitting my slides, I was elated to find that my entry had been chosen (you may have guessed that this would be the case from the fact that you’re reading this blog post). My colleague Misha was also selected, after he proposed a tax scheme that rewarded companies that met certain sustainability criteria.
We were given this incredible opportunity through Porter Novelli’s involvement in One Young World’s Lead 2030 programme. This initiative is supported by some of the world’s most prestigious brands, and will find, fund and accelerate the most impactful youth-led solutions that are working towards the 17 UN SDG’s.
The conference itself has a wonderful and diverse selection of speakers, ranging from rapper Akon – who has provided solar power engineering training to thousands in Africa, to Bob Geldof (classic), to astronauts, activists, and some of my fellow delegates who are already able to speak about their personal journeys to change the world.
It sounds cheesy, but young people really are the future of this planet and it’s an honour to be selected to help to shape it, however small my impact might be. I know that it will be an eye opening, life altering experience, and I look forward to working with the incredible people that I will meet across these fateful four days to turn my PowerPoint slides into a reality.