On International Youth Day, meet the young leaders who are creating safe spaces for youth

“Safe Spaces for Youth” is the theme of Sunday’s International Youth Day, designated by the United Nations General Assembly in celebration of the 1.8 billion people in the world aged 10-24.

The UN calls for creating “safe spaces where [young people] can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves.”

One Young World Ambassadors are already acting on their own initiatives to make communities inclusive. Here are 10 of our pioneering young leaders who are creating safe spaces that show the way to social cohesion:

Ilwad Elman

She is the Director of Programs & Development for the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia, managing the economical, psycho-social rehabilitation and reintegration of youth and children involved in the armed conflict throughout Somalia. Ilwad co-founded the first rape crisis centre in Somalia and through a program called Sister Somalia was able to provide emergency response to survivors, including medical care, therapy, food, education and safe-houses. She is one of ten youth leaders in Kofi Annan’s Extremely Together project to counter violent extremism.

Sophie Maxwell

After suffering abuse and becoming homeless, she founded the Really NEET College as a safe haven for young people that needed to rebuild their lives. The award-winning project offers teenagers positive with education through practical sessions which aid both personal and social development. Her vision was to have an alternative to mainstream education where young people could learn social entrepreneurship, Maths, English and Art in a safe environment that left them inspired and full of passion for life.



Francois Reyes

Set up Citizen's Awakening to fight extremism by creating a space where young people of all backgrounds can speak up and not be afraid to voice their ideas. It encourages dialogue between communities and uses technology to ensure that even those with little or no access to its physical platforms can participate in the discussions. Having originated in France in response to extremist violence, this NGO is now leading positive change in nine countries, and on four continents.



Heidy Quah

She founded Refuge For The Refugees as a non-profit organization to raise awareness of the status of refugees in Malaysia and provide education for refugee children. Established in 2012, it operates 10 schools across Malaysia and a further 25 in Myanmar. These schools seek to give refugee children a formal, certified and holistic education. Schools run from 8am to 3pm. On weekends, children have access to personal development and leadership classes.


Farida Asgarzade 

Co-founder of the Human Foundation in Azerbaijan, which aims to unite people around the world, irrespective of skin colour, race, religion or ethnic background to encourage human cooperation. The organisation, which has universal education and cancer prevention among its key goals, is dedicated to building respect for international law. She is also director and editor-in-chief of the website Belief and Hope which promotes the artistic talents of people with disabilities.


Suman Kumar

An engineer with a passion for technology who, after the 2015 earthquake in his native Nepal, helped design and fabricate machines that made temporary shelters. By partnering with over 130 organizations and individuals, over 5,300 shelters were provided to house 26,000 earthquake victims. He has cofounded School Relief an organization that uses earthquake resistant technology to rebuild schools that were destroyed by the 2015 disaster.



Steven Rigby

Based at global B2B events organiser UBM, Steven created the Mental Health Project after attending the One Young World 2016 Ottawa Summit. The project increases awareness of mental health around the company and has hosted eight mental health related events,  engaging with 450 people. In addition, 12 Mental Health First Aiders have been trained to spot early signs of mental health issues.


Tlotlo Nkwe 

An associate in banking sales at the global Standard Chartered bank, Tlotlo is active in planning, organising and staging events aimed at educating bank staff on issues affecting the LGBT community. His aims include raising awareness of the bank as an inclusive organisation, encouraging colleagues to bring themselves to work as whole and making the workspace a safe space. He says that as an African who identifies as LGBT he is very aware of the fear and insecurity that can surround the belief that sexual identity may be negatively perceived by society.



David Naibei

Living in Chad, one of the hottest countries on earth, David has dedicated himself to teaching children on the importance of environmental protection. A key member of the environmental group Espaces Verts du Sahel (Green Spaces of the Sahara), he is working with 53 school in four regions of Chad, raising awareness and training more than 2,000 young people a year on issues of children’s rights and sustainable development.



Asiya Mohammed

Executive Director of Conflict Women Ltd, which empowers survivors of domestic and sexual violence by facilitating market access for their jewellery and art. Its aim is to build a survivor entrepreneur network and train women in business development, conflict transformation and product design through public-private partnerships.


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