Talent is everywhere, but opportunities are not. That’s the conventional belief.
Today, after listening to some amazing young people speak about their lives at Thursday’s End Poverty event at the World Bank, I’m convinced that opportunities are omnipresent.
These youth have one thing in common: They all want to take on poverty and want everyone else to join them. For the first time in history, we can end extreme poverty, and we can do it by 2030. It’s the right thing to do.
Confucius, a Chinese philosopher who lived in the fifth century B.C., said that when we are faced with what’s right, “to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.” Today, four inspiring youth leaders were at the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C. to do what is right by helping to launch a global movement to end extreme poverty by 2030.
One of them, Chernor Bah, was born during a civil war in the slums of Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. Access to basic needs such as food was a privilege for him. His mom’s resilience helped him get education, he passionately told an energetic, youthful crowd. When he grew up he took it upon himself to mobilize young people to help increase access to education. Today he serves as the chairman of the Youth Advocacy Group for the Global Education First Initiative. Its goal is “to accelerate progress towards the Education for All goals and the education-related Millennium Development Goals.”
Ashish J. Thakkar, the founder of Mara Group, spoke about empowering, enabling, and inspiring youth through his work. He believes businesses should “do good and do well.” Nargis Shirazi spoke about the importance of empowering girls by increasing awareness about sexual health.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim joined these youth leaders and recalled how when he was in his 30s he joined the movement to fight HIV/AIDS. He asked everyone to take on the challenge of ending poverty. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he wants to see a world where everyone has an opportunity succeed and live a life of dignity.
To reach our goal, 1 million people have to lift themselves out of poverty every week for 16 years. That’s an audacious ambition. But it’s doable.
The world now has the largest youth population in history. We have a crucial role to play in ending poverty.
Youth serve as the bridge between the past and future. They stand between the intersection of failures, achievements, and potential. They are in the best place to fight poverty. Like the youth who shared their experiences and vision today, you can turn obstacles into opportunities.
No matter where you are and whatever resources you have, you have an opportunity to make your life better, make your neighbors' lives better, and change your community.
Thanks to the ever-growing availability of affordable technology, we are not just a global village but also connected brains — capitalizing on collective intelligence and local knowledge. We can raise awareness on social media, share information, and take on challenges in our own way. All of this will help us achieve our goal of ending poverty by 2030.
History has shown that social movements are often led by small groups of people. “Students should never doubt the ability of themselves and small group of like-minded people to change the world,” President Kim said to a group of students recently, paraphrasing the famous quote attributed to Margaret Mead.
“Movements matter and movements create change,” said Hugh Evans, CEO of the Global Poverty Project, an organization that wants to end extreme poverty by 2030. He asked everyone to sign the petition Zero Poverty 2030 that will be delivered to finance ministers of the world, asking them to have a robust plan to end poverty.
Sign the petition. Take action to end poverty wherever you are.
As Thakkar said today, “This is our time. And there are no excuses.”
Read also: Young and Eager to Be a Policymaker: A Few Inspiring Examples