On Saturday 12 September hundreds of young people arrived at the Department for International Development (DFID) ready to be inspired. They were there for the Youth Summit, a unique event organised by DFID and ICS to celebrate everything the ICS programme has achieved so far, and to dive in to what the soon to be announced Sustainable Development Goals mean for young people, and what they can do to be a part of implementing them.

The day was filled to the brim with workshops focused on issues ranging from gender equality, to climate change, to how to use social media to create a force for change. There were also a number of Spotlight Sessions which were led by speakers who provided their expert insight in to the development issues that still affect us 15 years since the original Millennium Development Goals were launched.

Each session was designed to galvanise the delegates and leave them with an appetite for change, but also equip them with some of the tools that they might need to amplify their voice. With the unveiling of the new goals now literally days away it was a poignant time to reflect on the magnitude of injustice that still exists in many of the countries ICS runs programmes in, but also how there is so much to do here in the UK. 

Speakers I loved listening to included Fahma Mohamed who spoke passionately on her work to end FGM and the importance of education in stopping the practice. She spoke of how campaigning can be done in small steps towards your objective and that while it might seem like a daunting endeavour you will build up the skills you need along the way. I was also thrilled to see Amy Stops, a Progressio ICS Retuned Volunteer and Empower Network member speak at the first Spotlight Session on the priorities for young people. Amy focused on gender inequality and spoke powerfully from personal experience of meeting young women in Malawi who were dealing with pressure to marry at the age of 15 and who had no control over their assets or finances leaving them vulnerable. 

Both women spoke about the importance of putting experience and awareness in to action, be it awareness raising or volunteering or campaigning for political change. They spoke of how, as part of the largest generation of young people ever, we have not only a responsibility but an opportunity to make a change.

It wasn’t only young people who spoke at the event, it was also amazing to witness Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development continue to show her commitment to both gender equality and youth. She spoke of DFID’s intentions to put young people at the heart of its activities and how it is entering in to consultation on what young people believe is the way forward for development. The most high profile, and surprise speaker at the conference was none other than UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon! He encouraged everyone at the summit in the closing plenary to live out the goals and be a part of their implementation, a call to action if ever there was one.

Progressio was busy at the summit, hosting a stall in the market place, meeting ICS volunteers from our placements and others and running a workshop on how and why delegates could get involved with influencing the gender goals progress particularly. We were also part of the absolute hive of activity on twitter, check out our many photos of delegates showing their support for the gender goal by searching #YouthSummit. We're very proud of the three Progressio Empower Network members who worked behind the scenes on the Action 2015 youth panel who shaped the entire day.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who made the day the success it was, I was left buzzing with excitement and completely inspired to turn the new goals in to plans for the future and ensure their success. If you want to be involved in welcoming the goals on the eve of their announcement, come and join us in London this Thursday to be a part of a worldwide mobilisation to ‘Light the way’!

Written by Jenny Vaughan, Progressio Campaigns Officer