Amplifying Youth Voices for the SDGs

The Nigerian Youth SDGs Network held its Regional Youth Dialogue in commemoration of the 2019 International Youth Day across 6 geopolitical zones of Nigeria with more than 2,000 participants on August 8, 2019. 

Our Founder, Olamide Ayeni-Babajide gave the keynote speech at the Lagos hub where change-makers gathered to network and brainstorm ways to amplify youth voices.

The Keynote Speech is printed here for those of us who couldn’t make it to the event.

I naturally think making SDG a written standard of everyday decision was a good way to bring us back to realize that we have derailed from the initial master-plan of our existence. Should we talk about moral, religion and humanity, they all point to the fact that poverty shouldn’t exist among us. They talked about cleanliness, seeking knowledge and making the world a better place. It’s however sad and worrisome that some people will have to ring this to our consciousness, reminding us that quality education is a right, not a privilege or telling us to be responsible in our consumption and production.

At the same time, we must applaud the actions of youths like us who have decided to solve problems affecting us by taking responsible steps even before the categorization of SDG into sections, a lot of youths all over the world have risen up to the challenges facing their nations and immediate environment before the advent of SDGoals.


I must confess that Nigerian youths and by extension, African youths, have taken enviable actions in curbing issues affecting us. Unfortunately, we haven’t learnt and mastered the act of telling our stories which has affected our international projection and profiling. However, this does not in any way erase the  fact that Nigerian Youths are up and doing in solving both global and local problems.

I consider it a privilege to stand before you today to talk about “Amplifying youth voices for the SDGs”. I do not take this for granted knowing fully well that I am standing before change-makers like myself who have broken stereotypes and shattered obstacles to get to where they are today.

Just like most of us, passion made me a change-maker and the same passion gave birth to Pearl Recycling, a social enterprise I founded in 2016 to solve the problem of waste through creative waste remodeling.

Starting my own social enterprise was a decision that came with the regular and irregular obstacles. The first obstacle we had to fight was from those within the same sector with us. You know Recycling has been in the limelight here for a while and upcycling wasn’t really known because the early upcyclers thought they were craft-makers and not change-makers. So we had little narration about upcycling in this clime and we had to first create the awareness and sensitization.

We also had a lot of problems with stereotypical waste profiling whereby people see waste as dirty and untouched. It took us more than 24 months to change the perception of most people to waste.

After that, we had to work out ways to generate revenue and become sustainable knowing fully well that we are not a not-for-profit and as such, we have to create revenue stream.

It’s been 3years of running with this vision called Pearl Recycling and I think these years have given me the opportunity to share some of the lessons I took out of our obstacles and I believe these are also applicable to all change-makers creating SDG solutions all over the world.

The theme of this year’s Nigerian Youth SDGs Network International Youth Day is “Amplifying Youth Voices for the SDGs” and I believe that the lessons I will be sharing will not only help us to amplify our voices, it will also help us to solidify and increase our impact.

The first thing I learnt is that..

“It’s important to know how to write your story”.

When you look around you, you will realize that the same sets of people are being recognized for their impacts, the same sets of people are being awarded grants, the same set of people are being showcased for doing amazing things in respect to SDG’s but truth is, most times, these people aren’t even the best of us, they aren’t doing half of what the world thinks they are doing, they aren’t even passionate change makers. We wonder why them, every time, but have we ever asked, what exactly are they doing right?


I will tell you, 80% of these people have mastered the art of telling their stories in the right way. They took time out to learn, practice and design human-centered profile of their solutions and that is why we see them getting all the recognition. So we must also start to write our stories the way the world want to see it. We should know all the sustainable development goals our solutions are solving and also understand the importance of impact-based report.

Impact based report focuses on the number of lives affected, communities imparted and sustainable methodologies included.


We can’t write a compelling story without telling the world the number of people or communities our solutions have affected positively, the number of people it will affect based on our projections using verifiable and measurable metrics and how we hope to sustain the impact.

In measuring our impact, we must never look down on the things we have done and consider them insignificant. Something as minute as our solution changing the mindset of people should be captured. How that one person we reached as reached other people should also be captured.

There are tools available for capturing impact for social entrepreneurs which we can use. Tools like: B Lab Assessment Tools and Social Lean Canvas, helps social enterprises to test their models methodically and arrive at a thoroughly validated, scalable and repeatable business model while also measuring and managing their impact as readily as they do profitability.

I will like to emphasis the keywords here:

  • Methodology of your process,
  • Validation of your Methods,
  • Scalability of the Solution,
  • Replicability of the Solution,
  • Impact Assessment,
  • Sustainability and
  • Profitability Assessment.

Telling our stories shouldn’t be passion driven but impact driven so that we can be able to compete globally and tell the world how our solutions are amplifying SDGoals.

It took me a long time to figure that collaboration is the new competition.

Also, I realized that majority of us work in silos and we do not appreciate collaboration. We must learn to work together to achieve the same result, this time, on a larger scale. For example, let assume someone here makes cloths or bags from waste fabrics and she is planning to exhibit the products. We all can come together to support with our own innovations. A recycler of plastics can say, I will pick up the used waste plastics and recycle for you. Another can say I will give free upcycled chairs for your guests and another can say, I will help with the publicity on my page. That is how we collaborate. We have so much resources and human capital at our disposal to help us thrive together than in silos.

When we work together, we create bigger impact and show the world that we understand teamwork. The time has come to ignore the urge to shine alone rather, we should learn to hold hands with others and create this positive impact we said we are passionate about.

In conclusion, I also learnt the art of writing my impact statement. For majority of us, we talk about our impact without focusing on the people or communities these impact affects. We focus on us and what we do without capturing perfectly how our impact has changed things, people, communities and lives. We must learn to talk about our impact in terms of numbers. Measurable metrics we use must show statistics, numbers and how we came about it.

Finally, I will say the best way to amplify our voice is to:

  • Work together – Collaboration,
  • Put our stories out there – Visibility and
  • Have a footprint of what we do – Digital Backlink.
  • Be open to development both locally and globally – Network and form synergy.

I am proud of all we do and I will leave the stage with these words “We should be more passionate about real change and positive impact than money or fame”

Thank you

Are you keen about creating a sustainable environment? then check out our sustainable products upcycled from waste

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