Youth Corner
Published on March 13, 2020

The Spirit of the SDGs: Leaving No One Behind

United Nations SDSN Youth and Co- Founder for Policy Act Initiative

In 2015, 193 countries came together and agreed to work towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. The SDG were an improvement of the millennium development goals. The aim was to ensure that states work towards creating a world where there is no poverty and everyone has access to quality education, good health and wellbeing. The spirit of the sustainable development goals is leaving no one behind, and thus in order to achieve these goals all stakeholders, including the youth, must be actively engaged and involved.

Kenya was one of the countries in 2015 that pledged their allegiance towards working to achieve the SDG. Given that Kenya’s population is quite youthful, we set about to look at what the phrase leaving no one behind means to Kenyan youth. To some it means that the private sector, public sector, Government, UN Agencies and youth should engage and collaborate to achieve the SDGs by 2030. To others, it means that no one should be left behind in terms of access to quality education, access to food, healthcare and decent employment. For others still, it means living in a world where there is gender equality in all spheres of life and where all stakeholders are being engaged in peacekeeping discussions and forums.

These varied connotations and views of the spirit of the SDGs led to the birth of a project between Kenyan youth, New York University students, Joint SDG Fund, Unicef Kenya and SDSN youth Kenya representatives. This project focused on creating a youth engagement strategy for SDGs in Kenya. I had the privilege of being the focal point for communication for Kenyan youth.

Lynn Sugut, Vicky Aridi and Ruth Nzomo at the Sustainability Impact Forum held at Strathmore Business School.

We began this project by having discussions on youth engagement on SDGs in Kenya. What was evident from these discussions was that there was low awareness of the SDGs among Kenyan youth despite the fact that many were actively engaged in projects geared towards attaining the SDGs. This gap in knowledge pushed us to come up with a strategy that aimed to recognize and celebrate youth who are working towards the attainment of SDGs in Kenya.

The first phase of the strategy was to engage with various influencers in Kenya so as to develop a social media movement and awareness of the SDGs and the youth engagement strategy. The next phase was the Youth for Change competition that was geared at identifying youth who were SDG champions in their communities in Kenya. The winners of this competition were celebrated at a one-day summit in Nairobi. During the summit, youth artists were given a platform to showcase and communicate on the SDGs through their art, and workshops were organized to raise awareness of the SDGs. Lastly, the final phase of the strategy involved regular youth takeovers of the Joint SDG Fund social media pages.

As a global youth advocate for the SDGs, leaving no one behind for me means ensuring that all stakeholders, especially the youth, are engaged with projects and programs focused on attaining the SDGs. I strongly believe that the youth are the leaders of today and tomorrow. Bearing in mind the words of Helen Keller that alone we can do so little but together we can do so much more, I would like to urge everyone in this decade of action to leave no one behind and to work towards attaining the SDGs by 2030.