International Youth Day 2021: Celebrating youth contribution in times of Covid-19

Despite the global crisis, many have risen above the occasion and played an exemplary role toward the betterment of our society


IN COMMEMORATION of the recent International Youth Day 2021, the Foreign Affairs Ministry in collaboration with the Youth and Sports Ministry, held a webinar themed “Youth Empowerment in Times of Covid-19”.

The programme was joined together by The Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, the United Nations Office in Kuala Lumpur, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, the Malaysian Youth Council and the United Nations Association of Malaysia Youth.

Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal said the joint effort was a testament to the advancement of youth empowerment in the country through cooperation with the UN, civil society, think tanks and youth organisations.

Addressing the youth agenda towards nation-building, the session highlighted the contribution of the youth from various backgrounds dealing with challenges along their aspirations in the middle of the pandemic.

“One of Malaysia’s key priorities is the role of youth where those aged 15 to 30 years old account for 31% of Malaysia’s population. It plays a critical part in the country’s development,” Wan Ahmad Fayhsal said.

However, the youth are now facing unprecedented challenges including youth unemployment, learning loss, digital gap between those in urban and rural areas, movement restrictions and mental health issues.

“Despite the difficult global crisis, many have risen above the occasion and played an exemplary role toward the betterment of our society from healthcare workers, social and environmental activists, youth volunteers, entrepreneurs and educators,” he added.

Meanwhile, deputy director general Youth Development Division National Department of Youth and Sports Ministry Zainah Shariff shared the government’s effort in empowering youth during these challenging times.

Malaysia’s youth empowerment largely focuses on five main areas namely, employability and entrepreneurship, promoting skills development, enhancing youth leadership and participation, advancing youth research and encouraging volunteerism.

Additionally, UN Resident Coordinator for Malaysia Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar said the youth must be given the opportunity to speak and be heard and be given the platform to bring their ideas into policy dialog.

“In the aftermath of Covid-19, youth have an important role in shaping the development for the future.

“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remain the most relevant and comprehensive roadmap to reach the better future we aimed to achieve,” he said.

On the societal front, the pandemic presented a significant chance to modify the outdated, unfair and ineffective policies.

“We can reform and invest extensively in youth-friendly policies and services by involving them meaningfully,” he added.

This can be translated into implementing various youth programmes and using digital transformation as a medium to enhance their skills, widen the employment opportunity and future of work toward the SDGs.

On the other hand, the UN secretary general’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake said with collective power globally, our youth have the opportunity to be the largest driving force to create meaningful change and achieve a more equal and sustainable future for all.

“During this time, we see youth becoming pillars and making big impacts on their communities, while experiencing a variety of problems in their daily lives,” Jayathma said.

She added that because today’s youth are digital natives, they have contributed to the resilience of their communities and countries by proposing fresh ideas that promote social betterment and transparent political development.

As the world seeks to recover from the pandemic, the diversity must be acknowledged and include the minority and marginalised communities in the youth empowerment agenda.

“We have to constantly interact with them in meaningful ways, in order to make things better for everyone and ensure that no one is left behind,” she concluded.