Do you remember the first time you encountered injustice? How it rankled and burned at the inside of your stomach, leaving you flustered and indignant?
I don't remember the first instance - I was probably being told off for some hijink my old brother had lead and I, the wide-eyed toddler who would have followed him anywhere, came along for the ride - but I do remember one of the more recent.
For context: I work in International Development, where high-level change-makers across the planet come together to find solutions to some of the most pressing issues globally. My remit is in the improvement of standards for health, wellbeing, and gender equality in Africa. These conversations are meaningful, and important - the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are the guiding principles to create substantive impact in emerging nations, and they are intrinsically bold.
In September 2016, I had the privilege of attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where one of the key themes across a number of meetings I attended was the need for greater youth engagement.
"We need young people to be involved in development across all levels!" said one old white man, whom my colleague informed me in whispers had been in his role for eleven years, and had worked in two other NGOs in the room for the twenty-six preceding.
"Africa's youth need to be trained in this, now, so they can be the leaders of tomorrow," agreed an old white woman, who had entered the sector after a reasonably successful career in government, as was a common career trajectory for reformed politicians.
"We need more young people involved in decision-making processes," said another old white man, nodding towards the young woman seated beside him. I later learned that, contrary to the allusion made by her boss, the girl was actually his Personal Assistant.
Injustice. Definition: when old white people have spent decades hogging the sector's microphone, and still somehow have the audacity to say that we collectively need to put young people - Africa's young people, especially - at front and centre, without meaningful follow-through.
Maybe when I was younger and the world was simpler, I could rationalise this "not in my backyard" mentality. But when so many organisations have worked so hard and for so long to achieve sustainable development, and then come to these meetings and pay empty lip service to innovation and accountability - true accountability - when it comes to youth, it's hard to bite your tongue. The solution to so many systemic issues is tied to youth engagement, and yet nobody seems to realise that this is an opportunity, not an obligation.
I came away from my first United Nations trip exhausted, excited, and inspired - not least of all by the young leaders I met along the way. In the International Development community, there is a maddening status quo in which all youth events run outside of the formal schedule, and were populated largely by those outside of the high-level spaces. It seemed to me that the establishment figures who spoke of youth engagement so often were all for it, so long as they didn't have to be involved. Which was a shame, given the youth fora seemed to present solutions that directly impacted the predicaments I was hearing in the high-level own sessions.
The discord between these two complementary platforms irked me; youth engagement was the flavour of the month but nobody was actually capitalising on some of the bright ideas I had been lucky enough to hear first-hand.
But by the tail end of the year, a new professional opportunity arose: an advocacy platform was going to be built, and a youth focus was preferred focus. All it needed was an analysis of gaps in sectoral capacity, and a carefully-defined brand to fill them.
Nobody else was doing it, so we did.
Wellbeing for Women Africa launched this month, and with it came a new dimension to global advocacy for African development. Wellbeingwomen.org is a digital platform within which experts in African development beneath the age of 30 create editorial content about their areas of expertise - fostered professionally, academically, or through lived experience from the very frontlines - on the subjects of respectful relationships, mental health, gender equality, and reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health.
It's been hard work to pull the platform together, and I'm proud of the strides we've made even in our first month. The Youth Partners on our platform have toiled in low-level jobs, volunteered for months, travelled to conferences on their own dime, and worked hard to achieve some semblance of recognition that can allow them to work in the International Development community at a level reflective of their value. Some of them have been fortunate, but many have not. By giving these young people a global platform, our mission is to foster a new standard of accountability in the International Development sector, in which those who are capable and willing to take a seat at the table can actually be engaged.
There are many ways to defeat injustice. At Wellbeing for Women Africa, ours is to incentivise and encourage other organisations working in International Development to collaborate with, and elevate, their greatest untapped resource: the young people who are eager to contribute their wisdom to the conversation. Because trust me, wisdom is the only way to describe some of the pieces we've had the privilege to run.
I hope that you, dear readers, will join us and change the conversation.
Scarlett Hawkins writes novels... But in her spare time, she writes rants.