United States Agency for International Development
Samantha Power, Administrator
October 1, 2021
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: So, Ineza, it’s great to see you again. I think they call you a Green Fighter. So I want to hear a little more, if we can, about your experience. You’re an alum of the Young African Leaders Initiative, and you do such remarkable work on climate change and environmental protection in Rwanda. And maybe just start us off by sharing a little bit about how you got into that line of work and sort of what inspires you to do the work that you do every day.
MS. GRACE: So the organization is a group of five youths that are committed to work daily and all of them are women because for most of the time women were [inaudible] to be left behind in the decision making process and in the access of information. So we designed ourselves to put women at the center. So we are a team of engineers. We have different disciplines. We have engineers, we have journalists, we have storytellers, even photographers. And then we come, of course, and then we try to brainstorm to find a concrete solution, which will be allowing to have disciplinary approaches in order to have a concrete solution.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Relate to the SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals. Like, do you try to popularize the idea that the whole world has agreed on these goals? Or do you kind of just work with the need to create more resilient communities or more food security? Do you link things to the goals explicitly or is it more implicit?
MS. GRACE: Yeah, that’s a good question. So I will start by saying that for me, when I look at the SDG, from the whole list, what I can see is that the STGs speak only three languages for me. The first is take care of the planet, ensure sustainable economic development, and love one another. So that’s how we see the SDGs. And in our activity, allow me to focus on SDG number two, which is about zero hunger. With the increase of the global population and unplanned urbanization and environmental disaster, especially in the global south, this goal is the more accessible. And with the youth, we want to do what we can in order to achieve that goal because we do appreciate a good meal. I mean, no one can really hate food. The main challenge that we are facing in terms of how we approach it is that we try to have a clear or broader access of using a wide range of technology. And we admit, that the most, the first thing to do is to ensure that the community are getting information to know where their sources are available and what kind of support is already existing. So we try to really use all the SDG in terms of giving one solution because we know for a solution to be sustainable, you need to be tackling all the challenges that the community is facing. Whether it be socioeconomic or development or even educational, even health in this time of COVID. So my question is how is USAID engaging youth as partners in development, especially in areas of meeting the SDG, such as climate and food security? And what will be the recommendation you would give to young changemakers to better engage with donors?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, first, I think you use the key word, which is partners. And, you know, I don’t know that by any means that we are perfect, but that is the spirit in which I really fervently hope all of our engagement with young people happens in that spirit of partnership. Young people are not just the beneficiaries of our projects or our programming. I mean, they have the best sense of what is required in order to enhance job prospects in a community, to be in a position to build back better after a climate event, or withstand the effects of climate change day to day. They see the sources of tension that can grow up in a community as resources shrink in light of climate change or because of COVID. Often young people are sometimes required to drop out of school because of food insecurity in the family and to go try to find work in order to help feed the family. And so young people are at the front lines, and we will not have the insight that we need unless and until we are informed by the knowledge that the young people bring.
And old habits die hard. You know, there, once you get in the habit of interacting with the same kind of group of NGO leaders or ministers, or you know, sometimes it is not easy for young people to break in and to break through. So in addition to just bringing that spirit of partnership, I think it’s also just very important to have programs that are dedicated to learning from and nurturing youth leadership. So you’ve already mentioned the Young African Leaders Initiative. We also have something called the Global Lead Initiative, which is a four year commitment to support a million young changemakers as partners in building healthy, peaceful, prosperous and democratic communities. And that’s through expanding education, civic engagement leadership.
And so, you know, again, I think this dedicated effort to enlist and build a sense of community and kind of deep collaborative relationships that needs to happen, also program by program, so not just in dedicated youth initiatives, but in the programing USAID does every day. To my kids, I say it to my students when I used to be a professor, which is that the key, I think, to being heard and having one’s advocacy integrated is — boils down to a very simple phrase, which is “know something about something.” And I think you’ve shown that and your colleagues, you know, the Green Fighters, you know, you’ve shown it by actually bringing a knowledge of your community, a knowledge, a specific knowledge of the sources of food insecurity or the impacts of climate change. You know, this is not general advocacy. This is specific advocacy rooted in specific challenges and where you all have a set of ideas about what the mitigation can be or what the solutions can be. And that’s the best advice. I think donors, governments, international institutions, you really notice that specificity when people have it, you know, when they can be very, very concrete and specific about not just that the SDGs matter, which I hope we are in full agreement all around the world with that core fact that we are all working toward the SDGs, but specific ideas about how to get there and not thinking that we can do everything at once, but, you know, carving out a piece of the challenge every day, making incremental progress, keeping our eye on transformational change and always being open to ideas about what the big bang ideas can be that we can bring to bear, but recognizing that every ounce of progress made toward fulfillment of the SDG for a country means thousands, if not millions of people reached, with more education, or with more drought resistant seeds, or with less flooding because of better irrigation, or — and every one of those individuals matters.