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From Football to Rocket Science: Meet the Young People Changing the World in 2018

MD Staff

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One hundred of the world’s most promising artists, business leaders, public servants, social entrepreneurs and technologists under the age of 40 have been invited to join the World Economic Forum’s community of Young Global Leaders. The aim is to enable them to shape an inclusive and sustainable future for the world.

They will join a community and a five-year programme that will challenge them to think beyond their scope of expertise and make a stronger impact as leaders.

They have been nominated because of their creativity and innovation; their ability to build bridges across cultures and between business, government and civil society; and their pioneering work in arts and culture, business, design, energy, health, public policy, sustainability and technology.

The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a multistakeholder community of leaders from all walks of life, from every region of the world. Current members head governments and Fortune 500 companies, hold Nobel Prizes and Academy Awards, and have become UN Goodwill Ambassadors and Social Entrepreneurs.

Over half of the YGL Class of 2018 are women, and the majority of the cohort are from emerging economies. Together, they represent the very best potential of their generation and are advancing new models of sustainable social innovation. The full list can be downloaded at http://wef.ch/ygl18.

“We’re challenging these 100 women and men to do more and be more. They’ll join a community of enterprising, socially minded leaders working as a force for good, and highlight the potential for innovation to correct the shortcomings in our economies and societies,” said John Dutton, Head of the Forum of Young Global Leaders at the World Economic Forum.

The Class of 2018 includes the following people from:

Africa (sub-Saharan)

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (M), a Nigerian Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is changing the way payments are made in Africa as Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Flutterwave, an API start-up that attracted $10 million in investment in 2017. He also co-founded Andela, which trains and connects African developers to global companies for work.

Samuel Alemayehu (M) is Managing Director, Cambridge Industries, Ethiopia. He is a Stanford engineer and Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is developing Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant and the continent’s largest wind farm.

Fatoumata Ba (F) is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Jumia Group, Africa’s first tech unicorn. She is also Chief Executive Officer of Janngo, Africa’s first social start-up studio.

Akim Daouda (M) is Chief Investment Officer of the Gabonese Sovereign Wealth Fund, Gabon. Outside of work, he supports a youth education NGO.

Khaled Igué (M) is Founder and President of Club 2030 Afrique, Benin, a think-tank focused on economic and social development in Africa. He is also Head of Public-Private Partnerships for Africa at OCP mining company.

Sébastien Kadio-Morokro (M) is one of the youngest CEOs in the African oil and gas industry as Chief Executive Officer of Petro Ivoire, Côte d’Ivoire. He is also Chairman of the Board of Clinique Procrea, which specializes in maternal health, child health and fertility.

Unathi Kamlana (M) is Deputy Registrar of Banks & Head of Department, Prudential Policy, Stats & Support, South African Reserve Bank.

Karabo Morule (F) is Managing Director, Personal Finance, Old Mutual Emerging Markets, South Africa. She is the first woman to sit on the company’s executive committee.

Natalie Payida-Jabangwe (F) is the Chief Executive of Ecocash, part of Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe. She runs the second-largest mobile financial service in Africa, managing the operation and financial transactions for 6 million customers.

Anushka Ratnayake (F) is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of myAgro, Mali. She supports small-scale farmers to pay for fertilizer and seeds through a mobile platform and is planning to reach 1 million farmers by 2025, increasing their income by $1.50 per farmer per day.

East Asia

Deng Adut (M) is Co-Founder and Partner at AC Law Group, Australia. He also founded the John Mac Foundation, which provides higher education scholarships to students from refugee backgrounds.

Nami Chung (F) is Managing Director at the Asan Nanum Foundation, Republic of Korea. She is leading efforts on youth empowerment and entrepreneurship.

Ren Hua Ho (M) is the Executive Director of hospitality brand Banyan Tree Holdings, Singapore, and Chief Executive Officer of Thai Wah, a food conglomerate. He volunteers as a mentor at a prison in Singapore and serves on several NGO boards.

Elaine Kim (F) is the Co-Founder and Partner of CRIB (Creating Responsible and Innovative Businesses), Singapore. She helps women become entrepreneurs and is a doctor and Chief Executive Officer of HCA Hospice Care, providing care for the terminally ill in their homes. She also co-founded Singapore’s first co-working space for families, Trehaus.

Nadiem Makarim (M) is Chief Executive Officer of GO-JEK, a motorcycle ride-hailing app that has evolved into payments, food delivery and other lifestyle services in Indonesia. The fleet includes 400,000 drivers and over 3,000 service providers.

Lucy McRae (F) is Principal, Lucy McRae, Australia. An artist and inventor, she is recognized as an early identifier of emerging technologies, leading Philips Electronics research lab.

Kaila Murnain (F) is General Secretary, New South Wales Branch, Australian Labor Party, Australia, the first woman to hold this position. Her aim is to change the culture of the party, making it more inclusive.

John Riady (M) is Director of Lippo Group, a business conglomerate based in Indonesia that includes real estate, retail, hospitals and internet services.

Simon Sheikh (M) is the Founder and Managing Director of Future Super, Australia’s first fossil-fuel-free pension fund.

Taejun Shin (M) is the Founder and Representative Director, Living in Peace, Japan. A former investment banker, he runs an NGO committed to education for peace.

David Sin (M) is Chief Executive Officer of SIN Capital Group, Singapore, and Deputy Chairman of Fullerton Health, a health foundation, where he is spearheading projects to help the elderly, low-income families and disadvantaged youth.

Shoko Takahashi (F) is Representative Director at Genequest, Japan. Her start-up gathers customers’ genetic information to develop drugs specific to their treatment.

Wai Wai Nu (F) is the Founder and Director of the Women Peace Network, Myanmar. A former political prisoner, she has been at the forefront of human rights activism and helps women fight abuse such as sexual harassment and domestic violence.

Hannah Yeoh (F) is Speaker, Malaysia Democratic Action Party. She is the country’s first female speaker for Selangor State Assembly and the youngest speaker of any legislative assembly in the country.

Vivy Yusof (F) is a Malaysian fashion entrepreneur, social media influencer and advocate for women’s empowerment. She founded dUCK, a fashion brand and FashionValet, a multimillion-dollar online retail start-up.

Europe and Eurasia

Heba Aly (F) is Journalist and Director of IRIN, Switzerland, a leading source of original, field-based journalism on humanitarian crises.

Barbara Ann Bernard (F) is the Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer of Wincrest Capital, a global equity fund. An Irish national, she also chairs Ultera Technologies, a clean energy company.

Oana Bîzgan (F) is a member of Parliament of Romania, representing Bucharest and works on equal opportunities for women and men and economic policy. She ran Romania’s NoHateNoFear campaign.

Valeri Chekheria (M) is Chief Executive Officer of Adjara Group Hospitality, a hotelier and agricultural entrepreneur from Georgia and business advocate for sustainability, human rights and anti-corruption.

Xavier Duportet (M) is Chief Executive Officer of Eligo Bioscience, France. His company developed antimicrobial medicines that can be programmed to target bacteria based on their genome – a treatment that can be used for illnesses like Crohn’s disease. He also runs Hello Tomorrow, a non-profit that helps promising science-entrepreneurs trying to solve the world’s most pressing issues.

Mathieu Pierre Flamini (M) is the Founder of and Partner at GFBiochemicals, United Kingdom, and a professional football player turned environmental entrepreneur. GFBiochemicals produces levulinic acid, a substance that could be an alternative to petrol.

Gloria Fluxa Thienemann (F) is Co-Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Grupo Iberostar, Spain, a tourism multinational operating in 30 countries with over 100 hotels, travel agencies and operators, employing over 28,000 people. She is also a campaigner for marine sustainability.

Maya Foa (F) is Director of Reprieve, the legal charity based in the United Kingdom that has a team of lawyers fighting human-rights abuses such as the death penalty, assassinations and secret prisons.

Sanni Grahn-Laasonen (F) is the Minister of Education and Culture of Finland. The Nordic country’s school system has consistently come at the top of international rankings for education systems.

Camilla Hagen Soerli (F) is the Executive Manager of Canica, one of the largest privately owned investment companies in Norway. She also manages the Canica Foundation, investing in medical research with a focus on women’s health.

Solveigh Hieronimus (F) is Partner at McKinsey & Company, Germany, who specializes in refugees, migration, welfare and employment. She is a speaker at the European Parliament, the European Summit on Youth Unemployment and the Chatham House Conference.

Gwenaelle Huet (F) is the Chief Executive Officer, France, Renewable Energy, ENGIE Group, France. Formerly with the French government handling climate negotiations, she is now responsible for hydro, wind, geothermal, solar PV and marine energy projects at Engie.

Ipek Ilicak Kayaalp (F) is Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, Ronesans Holding, Turkey, a group of companies specializing in construction, real estate investment, energy, health and education.

Christian Kroll (M) is the Scientific Co-Director of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Index and Dashboards at Bertelsmann Stiftung, the German think tank. The index and dashboards measure country performance on the UN SDGs and show how world leaders can deliver on their promises for reforms.

Gaurav Mehta (M) is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Dharma Life, India. A former private equity professional, he runs a social enterprise that enables entrepreneurs in rural areas to improve their local communities.

Miroslava Duma (F) is the Founder of Future Tech Lab, Russian Federation. She is an entrepreneur who is commercializing new, sustainable technologies and innovations for the fashion industry. Her work includes founding an investment company, experimental fashion tech lab, lifestyle digital platform, and a women and children’s online store.

Albert Rivera Díaz (M) is President of Ciudadanos – Partido de la Ciudadanía, Spain. A Spanish attorney and politician, he is also an anti-corruption and diversity champion.

Susannah Rodgers (F) is a British Paralympic swimmer who won 30 international medals, including three bronze medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and a gold and two bronze medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. She is a Non-Executive Director of the British Athletes Commission.

Nico Rosberg (M) is a German-Finnish Formula One race driver and 2016 Formula One World Champion who drove for Williams F1 and Mercedes AMG Petronas under the German flag.

Marlene Schiappa (F) is a French politician serving as France’s Secretary of State in charge of Equality between Women and Men.

Mustafa Suleyman (M) is one of the three co-founders of DeepMind, an artificial intelligence lab in the United Kingdom that was acquired by Google in 2014 for a reported £400 million.

Leo Varadkar (M) is the Taoiseach of Ireland. A medical doctor, he became the country’s youngest-ever prime minister in 2017.

Greater China

Kent Ho (M) is Founder and General Partner of s28 Capital, Hong Kong SAR. His company is one of the largest new early-stage venture capital funds in Silicon Valley.

Li Jia (F) is Head of Research and Development, Google Cloud Artificial Intelligence, Alphabet, USA. Previously head of research at Snapchat, she now heads the Google AI China Center and is an adjunct professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Jingfang Hao (F) is a Researcher at the China Development Research Foundation, People’s Republic of China. A researcher in macroeconomics, she also writes science fiction and leads a non-profit, Tong Xing, working on social impact projects.

Wang Huai (M), a former Facebook engineer, he leads Linear Venture, a technology investment firm. He is also Chairman of the Youth Group of China’s Future Forum, a non-profit establishing an interdisciplinary platform to promote science that helps humanity.

Xiao Liu (M) is Senior Vice-President of China Vanke, one of the largest property companies in China.

Wenjuan Mi (F) is Chief Executive Officer of VIPKID, People’s Republic of China. She empowers children through her English language education institution, which connects Chinese students to an international learning experience.

Li Sixuan (F) is Anchor for China Central Television, People’s Republic of China.

Wen Wang (F) is a Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Singapore. A biochemist, she focuses on using technology to address sustainability, healthcare and food security.

Huiyan Yang (F) is Chairwoman of Country Garden Holdings, China’s largest property developer. She is China’s richest woman and her company has sold properties to 1.5 million homeowners and employs 70,000 people worldwide.

Carol Yu (F) is Anchor for Phoenix Satellite Television, Hong Kong SAR. She hosts Visionaries, which reaches over 400 million viewers in Asia alone.

Lu Zhang (F) is the Founding and Managing Partner of Fusion Fund, USA, a venture capital firm that specializes in early stage healthcare and technology investments. She made her mark in the industry after founding a company focused on non-invasive technology for early diagnosis of Type II diabetes.

Latin America

Kerstin Forsberg (F) is an ocean conservation activist based in Peru and Founder of Asociación para la Conservación de Ambientes Marinos y Costeros and Planeta Océano, a non-profit fighting to protect marine environments.

Sebastián Alejandro Kind (M) is Undersecretary for Renewable Energy, Ministry of Energy and Mining of Argentina and leading a national plan to generate 20% of the country’s power by 2025.

Juan Jose Pocaterra (M) is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ViKua, Venezuela. His company develops smart city technologies and he is Venezuela’s representative to the White House Emerging Entrepreneurs Initiative.

Alejandro Malgor (M) is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Xinca, a company based in Argentina that makes shoes from discarded car tyres. Xinca partners with sustainable brands like Patagonia and has produced 20,000 pairs from 13 tons of recycled tyres since 2013.

Kapil Mohabir (M) is the Founding Managing Partner of Plympton Farms, Guyana. His social enterprise is the largest exporter of tropical products in Guyana, and he seeks to alleviate rural poverty by working with smallholder framers.

Juan Pablo Larenas (M) is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Sistema B, Chile. His organization promotes collaboration between businesses, government and civil society towards social innovation.

Middle East and North Africa

Faisal Abbas (M) is Editor-in-Chief of Arab News, Saudi Arabia.

Razan Al Mubarak (F) is Secretary-General of the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi (EAD), United Arab Emirates.

Sarah Al-shuhaimi (F) is the first woman to chair Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange and is Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of NCB Capital, Saudi Arabia.

Riad Armanious (M) is Chief Executive Officer of Eva Pharma, Egypt. A philanthropist and entrepreneur, he turned his family’s small business into one of the region’s fastest-growing pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Reem Fadda (F) is an internationally recognized art curator based in the Palestinian Territories.

Rayan Fayez (M) is Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Banque Saudi Fransi, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest banks.

Reem Khouri (F) is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Kaamen, Jordan. She runs a social enterprise that supports organizations in designing their economic and social contracts with society.

Tamer Makary (M) is the Founder of Ethica Partners in the United Arab Emirates. He established Africa’s first not-for-profit eye hospital in Cameroon and he is launching local eye care interventions in Indonesia.

Alisha Moopen (F) is Executive Director of Aster DM Healthcare, United Arab Emirates. She oversees 85 clinics and focuses on initiatives for village development, ranging from small children to women’s education. She is also a trustee and active member of the Aster DM Foundation, working with children with congenital heart disease.

North America

Angela Baker (F) is Head of Qualcomm Wireless Reach, USA, a strategic initiative of Qualcomm that brings wireless technology to underserved communities around the world, reaching over 10 million beneficiaries.

Kelly Buchanan (F) is Senior Vice-President, Commercial Solutions, Mastercard, USA. She led the efforts to initiate Mastercard’s Women in Technology programme and is involved in Girls 4 tech, a programme that teaches science, technology, engineering and mathematics to schoolgirls across the world.

Joy Dunn (F) is the Lead of New Product Introduction, Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX), USA. She leads the task force taking new spacecraft from design concept into production. She co-founded the Women’s Network and LGBTQ employee groups at SpaceX and is involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics outreach.

Michael Faye (M) is Executive Chairman of GiveDirectly, USA. His charity allows donors to send money directly to the poor with no strings attached and is researching the effects of unconditional basic income in developing economies. He also runs Segovia, a technology company that aims to make charitable payments safer.

Joseph P. Kennedy (M) is Congressman from Massachusetts (D), 4th District, United States House of Representatives, USA.

Maggie MacDonnell (F) is the teacher from Ikusik School, one of the most northern communities in Canada, who won the Global Teacher Prize 2017. With the $1 million award, she is planning a non-profit for youth to engage on issues such as culture, climate change, health and global citizenship.

Nadeem Meghji (M) is Senior Managing Director at Blackstone, USA. Working in the Real Estate Group and Head of Real Estate Americas, he oversees $60 billion of investor capital. He is also a board member for the Lupus Research Alliance.

Subha Nagarajan (F) is leading GE Capital’s emerging markets investment portfolio. Previously, she managed over $2 billion worth of investment deals in Africa at the Overseas Private Investment Corp, the US Government development finance institution.

Billy Parish (M) is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Solar Mosaic, USA. An author, businessman and philanthropist, his company is the largest lender for home solar in the United States. He also founded, Power Shift Network, one of the largest youth climate change advocacy organizations in the world.

Catherine Raw (F) is Chief Financial Officer at Barrick Gold Corporation, Canada, one of the largest investors in mining.

Lily Sarafan (F) is Chief Executive Officer of Home Care Assistance, USA. Her start-up is the largest consumer health company in ageing services, generating $100 billion with 5,000 employees. She was a Chairwoman of the National Iranian American Council, an activist for Moms Against Poverty, and pioneered educational programmes for orphaned girls in Cambodia and Iran.

Arvind Satyam (M) leads global business development for Cisco’s Smart Cities Initiative, supporting cities in their efforts to improve energy management, disaster preparedness and public safety.

Fern Shaw (F) is President of UPS, USA. She oversees 15,000 employees in finance, sales, package and transport operations, industrial and plant engineering, human resources, automotive, security and labour relations.

Jagmeet Singh (M) is a Member of Ontario Provincial Parliament and leader of the New Democratic Party, Canada.

Edward “Smitty” Smith (M) is a Partner at DLA Piper, USA. He delivered broadband to underserved communities as a member of the Obama Administration, advised the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and ran for Attorney General in the District of Columbia.

Alexander Soros (M) is the Owner of Soros Fund Management, USA. He founded the Alexander Soros Foundation, promoting civil rights, social justice and education through grants. He is also Deputy Chair of the Open Society Foundations, which supports civil society groups around the world.

Tom Szaky (M) is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of TerraCycle, USA. A champion of the circular economy movement, his company repurposes hard-to-recycle consumer waste such as chip bags and cigarette butts.

Leana Wen (F) is the emergency physician taking on Baltimore’s health crises as the city’s Commissioner of Health. As the head of one of America’s most experimental health departments, she tackles everything from the city’s crippling drug abuse problem to high infant mortality.

South Asia

Nighat Dad (F) is the Founder of the Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan. A lawyer and internet activist, her non-profit is helping Pakistani women fight against online harassment.

Bhairavi Jani (F) is Executive Director of the SCA Group of Companies, a major logistics firm in India. An entrepreneur and one of the most powerful women in India, she has advised governments and private organizations.

Rhea Mazumdar Singhal (F) is Chief Executive Officer of Ecoware Solutions, India. She is tackling plastic waste by manufacturing a biodegradable – and cheaper – alternative to plastics. She also volunteers to help cancer patients.

Hamdullah Mohib (M) is a diplomat who is the Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States of America.

Armstrong Pame (M) is Joint Secretary, Government of Manipur, India. Known as “the miracle man”, he took up an ambitious road project without government funds, leading to the opening of a 100-kilometre road that links poor communities in Manipur with the outside world.

Suchi Saria (F) is the John C. Malone Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University, USA. She runs one of the leading labs at the intersection of artificial intelligence and healthcare to make early detection and diagnosis a reality.

Alok Shetty (M) is Founder and Principal Architect of Bhumiputra Group, an architectural firm in India that designs flood-resistant homes, costing as little as $300, for low-income housing in Bangalore. He is on a mission to improve people’s quality of life in poor districts and was named “Young Leader for Tomorrow” by Time magazine.

Kanika Tekriwal (F) is the Chief Executive Officer of JetSetGo, India’s largest private jet company. Often called the “Uber of air travel”, JetSetGo manages and operates private jets that are owned by others.

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New Social Compact

Happiness Is Around You

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Happiness is a beautiful combination of joy and pleasure, that gives the way to peace. Happiness is a subjective feeling but today’s world gives it an objective meaning. We have associated our happiness with wealth, bank balance, property, gold, and other materialistic things. But the basic formula of happiness lies in the forgotten pleasures. The pleasures once cherished by our elders are still the true sources of happiness, but unfortunately, we forget these ones.

Health, food, sleep, children, books, smiles, music, prayers, Quran, charity, timely help,
forgiveness, honesty, appreciation, support, outdoor games, socializing,…….all these components have lost their effects in our lives. We have forgotten to enjoy the pleasure of our good health because we do not care about that. Whereas, to have a healthy body, a healthy physique gives the ultimate pleasure of being fit in life and free from diseases.

Everyone is hurrying and running away. We are unable to give proper time to sleep, to children, to elders, and most importantly to ourselves. Elders do not realize that their children need them. They consider it enough, to give all the material things to their kids. But they are mistaken. Children want their real-time. They have so many problems to share with their parents. It is their first and foremost right to have quality time with their elders. On the other side of the picture, kids are themselves now so busy in useless activities, that they almost do not bother to spend time with family. They have made their own corners,  which is making them a more introvert and un-socialized.

It is said that “A smile is not just a way to exhibit your happiness and well-being, it is also a way to make people good about themselves. “But we are misers and cowards to share our smile with others so that it may not spread like a wave of pleasure. We have become selfish almost at everything.

Similarly, forgiveness enables you to decide about your relationship with others based on happiness. In this state, you are tolerating others and in a long way, you feel closer to other persons.
But we the so-called “good human beings” like to take revenge, We like people hurting back in a more hard way. We do not forgive. We are egoistic. We like seeing others in pain. We enjoy to see them in a more miserable condition and in more hardships. We do not like to forgive others easily. We do not like to help others. We are harsh. We cannot see others’ happiness.

Life is wonderful and worth living, but we have made it very unhappy by creating ethnic, provincial, national and international conflicts. We live in a continuous race state of the race, running for our desires and positions. I do not condom this living style as I understand for such people, happiness is all about getting things. But to neglect many other things that are the true sources of bringing happiness in life is not a good idea. Do find some positive ways to find happiness in life. Happiness that would last forever. The happiness that is collective, constructive and subjective. 

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New Social Compact

New lives, new freedoms: How labour migration empowers Nepali women

Neha Choudhary

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When I first met Ram Kumari Chaudhary, she was an extremely shy, but solemn, 19-year-old. She told me she wanted to go to work in Jordan to support her parents, adding that there were few opportunities to find a decent job in Nepal. Soon afterwards, in 2017, I learned that she had found a job in Jordan’s booming garment industry, earning, on average, around US$350 a month. Every three or four months she faithfully sent back about three-quarters of her salary to her parents in Nepal.

After about 18 months, her father’s poor health forced her to resign and return home. She brought with her a refund of her social security contributions worth about US$500, as well as some other savings. Her employer in Jordan also gave her a free airfare home as a welfare gesture. When we met again she had metamorphosed into a confident young lady, emboldened by her worldly experience and proud of her achievements. “I was able to make a support building a small home for my parents in the village,” she told me. “I have been supporting my father’s treatment. I brought back a flat screen TV when I came back. I have a modest saving if I want to do something. And, I have already been offered a job in a factory here. Given my international experience, the salary package is also good. Had I stayed in Nepal, I would not have earned that much.”

Chaudhary’s household is one of the 57 per cent in Nepal receiving remittances from migrant workers. So important are these financial flows to the Nepali economy that they are equivalent to 26 per cent of the country’s GDP. And, they are growing. In the financial year 2018/19 alone the country received migrants’ remittances of NPR 879.26 billion (US$ 7.76 billion), up from NPR 231.72 billion (US$ 2.05 billion) in the fiscal year 2009/10[1].

25-year-old Maya Chepang Praja, from Chitwan, south-west of the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, opted to work abroad to support the upbringing of her son, then aged three, after her husband abandoned them. Despite very little education, in Jordan she earned an average of USD275 per month – more than double the USD130 she was paid working at a factory in Nepal – and she was able to save most of this to send back to Nepal for her son.

Unfortunately, she was forced to return to Nepal after less than nine months of working in Jordan when her son, who was being cared for by his grandmother, had his leg crushed in an accident. “If the accident didn’t occur and if I had stayed back [in Jordan], I would have earned enough to give my son a good life, a good education. However, whatever I earned in the nine months helped me at least get his leg back. I will always be grateful for that,” she told me. She is now looking for another job abroad.

The importance of migration and remittances will continue to grow in Nepal, because approximately 500,000 individuals are entering the labour market annually but only one in 10 are finding jobs. In these circumstances, it seems close to impossible to lead a quality life, with access to health, education and decent housing, without going for foreign employment. Furthermore, as these young women’s stories show, opportunities to work overseas in decent jobs have also made an important contribution to the empowerment of Nepali women in a broader sense of the term. This is seldom taken into consideration in larger studies on the socio-political impact of remittances and foreign employment.

ILO

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New Social Compact

The drive for quality education worldwide, faces ‘mammoth challenges’

MD Staff

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Young women return home after classes in the town of Bol in Chad. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Aligning inclusive, quality education with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was centre-stage on Friday, as the President of the UN General Assembly held a high-level interactive meeting for the International Day of Education.       

“The education sector is wrestling with mammoth challenges worldwide”, said Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, in his message for the day.

Listing them, he said there was a “precipitate decline” in the quality and standards of education; a widening knowledge gap between students in technically advanced societies and those in developing countries; a crisis of learning in conflict zones; growing school bullying, and “the declining esteem of the teaching profession” overall.

Mr. Muhammad-Bande maintained that today’s education must “bridge the yawning gap” between the modern employment needs for specialized skills, and actual learning opportunities.

“School curricula have yet to anticipate and respond to workplace needs for hands-on, vocational, ICT applications, and sundry technical skills, while still advancing the traditional scholastic pursuits”, he stated.

Moreover, he highlighted, “the significance of the deficits in education outcome becomes obvious when viewed alongside the spiralling population crisis”. 

Education in a crisis

The fate of school children trapped in conflict zones deserves even more urgent attention.

According to UNICEF, in 2017, 500 attacks were staged on schools in 20 countries worldwide. In 15 of those 20, troops and rebel forces turned classrooms into military posts.

Thousands of children were recruited to fight, sometimes made to serve as suicide bombers, or forced to endure direct attacks.

“The learning environment may also be rendered unsafe by gun-toting, machete-wielding, gangs and unruly youths, and by sexual predators on school premises”, Mr. Muhammad-Bande said.

And natural disasters pose additional threats to the learning environment.

Cyclones, hurricanes and storms are among the climatic conditions that periodically wreak havoc on school buildings and facilities, making learning difficult, if not impossible.

“The choices that education stakeholders make have direct impact on various social groups, particularly, disadvantaged groups like rural communities, the urban poor, persons with disabilities, and women”, upheld the PGA, noting that nearly two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are female, mostly in under-developed countries.

Choice also becomes critical in the struggle to elevate the status of the teaching profession, recruit competent and motivated teachers, and expose teachers to innovative techniques.

But there are bright spots he said: “Forward-looking education policies have contributed to the attainment of SDG targets in some countries”, asserted Mr. Muhammad-Bande.

And participants at this year’s International Day of Education are given the opportunity “to share international good practices in inclusive quality education”.

Partnerships are key

Education enhances the “analytical, inventive and critical thinking capacities of human beings”, the Assembly President said, adding that in the process, it accelerates each nation’s technological attainments and economic growth.

“When a society remains perpetually under-developed, it must among other things re-evaluate its education system”, said Mr. Muhammad-Bande. “If the system is dysfunctional or does not facilitate the acquisition of pertinent knowledge and skills, the economy will, at best, stagnate, and at worst, collapse”. 

Bearing in mind the “tremendous amount of work” that lies ahead, he shared his belief that partnerships can play an important role in implementing and attaining the SDGs, which is why his office “has placed strong emphasis on engendering partnerships across key priority areas”, including education.

In conclusion, Mr. Muhammad-Bande urged Member States and other key partners to examine the feasibility and value-added support in establishing a network of key existing education networks to exchange information and ideas, “including sources of support, relating to all aspects of education”.

Power of education

“Education has the power to shape the world”, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spelled out at the podium.

“Education protects men and women from exploitation in the labour market” and “empowers women and gives them opportunities to make choices”, she said. 

Moreover, it can help change behaviour and perceptions, thereby fighting climate change and unsustainable practices. A quality experience in the classroom helps promote mutual respect and understanding between people; combat misperceptions, prejudice and hate speech; and prevent violent extremism. 

“Without education, we cannot achieve any of the SDGs”, Ms. Mohammed flagged.

And yet, with 2030 looming on the horizon, the world is lagging behind, prompting the Secretary-General to issue a global call for a Decade of Action, to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs.

“The situation in education is alarming…because of the crisis in the number of children, young people and adults who are not in education”, as well as because many who are, are not learning. 

And refugees and migrants face additional challenges. 

According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the proportion of refugees enrolled in secondary education is 24 per cent, only three per cent of whom have access to higher education.

“We have the power to shape education, but only if we work together and really bring the partnerships that are necessary to provide quality education”, she concluded. “We have a duty to step up our efforts, so that quality education for all is no longer a goal for tomorrow, but a reality”. 

Invest in education

Action for “the four Ps on which our future depends”, namely people, prosperity, the planet and peace, is imperative, according to the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and CulturalOrganization, UNESCO in her Friday message.

Although education is “a valuable resource for humanity”, Director-General Audrey Azoulay pointed out that it is “all too scarce for millions of people around the world”.

A global learning crisis, confirmed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, is a major cause for concern as it is also a crisis for prosperity, for the planet, for peace and for people”, she said, urging everyone to take action for education “because education is the best investment for the future”.

UNESCO has been charged with coordinating the international community’s efforts to achieve SDG 4, quality education for all.

“First and foremost”, the UNESCO chief said, “our Organization takes action for people, by making education an instrument of inclusion and, therefore, of empowerment”.

Changing lives, transforming communities

For her part, Mona Juul, President of the UN Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC, maintained that education is “the most powerful means to escape poverty”.

“It changes lives, transforms communities and paves the way towards productive, sustainable and resilient societies in which children – girls and boys – can reach their full potential”, she expanded, urging everyone to strengthen their efforts to manifest a world in which every child receives a quality education that allows growth, prosperity, empowerment and so they can “make meaningful contributions to communities big and small, everywhere”. 

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