It’s not easy being a woman, let alone a Muslim woman, in an industry dominated by men. Things are changing, of course, and there are more opportunities available to women and young people now then there have ever been before – especially in Australia.

 



But not all countries have these same opportunities…

 

And many women and young people miss out on proper training and career options through a combination of factors such as resources and education facilities, financial restrictions, and even cultural beliefs.

I knew pretty early in my career that my calling was to engage with young people in order to increase opportunities and empower youth, especially in culturally marginalised communities, socio-economically disadvantaged and developing countries.

For the past three decades, I have been fortunate enough to speak at conferences and seminars, presenting to heads of state, academia and business leaders, as well as organisations and media, addressing social, environmental, cultural and educational issues.

 

I have always wanted to open up education…

 

As a pathway to “futures with choices” for everyone – no matter what race, gender, religious or cultural background.

And, a large part of that mission has been to engage with young people about climate change and the environmental sustainability of our planet – a cause near and dear to my heart.

I understand that it can be hard to get young people, especially children and teens, excited about the environment. But, from my experience, the earlier you expose children to the topic, the easier it is to engage and inspire them to get involved and support the cause.

We, as parents, educators and members of society, are raising the leaders and decision makers of the future. In just a few short years they are going to be the people who are running our countries and making decisions that will impact our environment in dramatic ways. Even just in their everyday actions.

Therefore, it’s up to educators, in partnership with parents, to help children and young people understand the role they play in climate change and sustainable development for the future.

 

As the director of the International Academy of Marawi (IAM) in the Philippines…

 

This has been a key focal area for our curriculum for quite some time. Knowing that environmental change is an issue that affects us globally all year round, I am always looking for innovative ways to engage my students in climate change initiatives.

This month, for example, I was able to send five students and two teachers as a delegation to the 2018 Action for Earth Global Youth Summit (GYS) held in Singapore.

The youth-led summit is a 3-day annual conference that attracts hundreds of students from all over the world, with the aim of sharing environmental initiatives, projects, networking and engaging with other like-minded, forward-thinking young people about sustainable climate change solutions. The summit includes: boot-camp style learning, challenges and an awards celebration for the most innovative projects – including cash prizes for the top three winners across junior and senior student categories.

The Global Youth Summit is open to students and educators from across the globe, and is held bi-annually, so there is no shortage of opportunities to get involved. So, whether you are a leader in your industry, a stay at home parent, or someone who is still finding their permanent career path, it’s never too late or too early to inspire and educate those around you.

We spend much time teaching our children to engage with their peers in a positive and encouraging way – why can’t we implement this theory to how we engage with the environment?

I was fortunate that I had educational opportunities when I was young that have allowed me to study internationally, and to learn about different projects, cultural diversity and the importance of care for the environment. It laid the foundation for my career path and seeded my passion for creating opportune pathways for young people through education.

 

This has opened many doors for me personally…

 

And allowed me to achieve a career and ways to impact more people that I would have otherwise had. I cannot advocate good education and a strong focus for the environment enough.

They say, that if you plan for tomorrow, plant trees; if you plan for the future, teach people to plant many trees. For me, its education and environmental awareness that can bring generational change for the better for our natural environment and create vast opportunities for our young people and especially women.

That is one of the reasons why we focus a lot on environmental education even in our Early Childhood Learning Centre in Arndell Park, Melbourne, where we have trees, herbs and vegetables planted among the playground, all labelled and the children water these and see them grow. We need our next generations to be more aware of the impact our lives have on the environment if we want to create a more sustainable future.

Sarifa Younes

Sarifa Younes

Sarifa Younes is the President of the International Academy of Marawi (IAM), Director of the Training College of Australia, and Centre Director for the Arndell Park Early Childhood Learning Centre. She is an international speaker, an advocate for environmental education and a widely published writer. Her up-coming book is due for release later this year
Sarifa Younes

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