Catalysts for Change: Middle School Students Empowered at the Global Issues Network Day
The Global Issues Network Day (GIN) is a conference that brings together youth from around the Netherlands who are passionate about local-global issues. Designed to empower young people and ignite local, regional and solutionary collaborations for our shared global issues the conference integrates climate change activism, design thinking, community building and diversity acceptance. This year, 21 Middle School students attended the conference, participating in various workshops, and even facilitating a session about gender equality.
This year’s GIN conference theme was "Our Planet - Our Future - Our Home - let's Share it!" and was designed to bring people together, and make use of our platforms, knowledge, and voices to strive for positive change. Two inspiring keynote speakers set the tone for the conference: founder of the Youth Environment Council and NGO “Bos dat van Zichzelf is” Peter Akkermann and indigenous activist for human rights and the climate Raki Ap.
A student shared: “I learned that the indigenous people live more in balance with nature,” shared an ASH student.” If we want our planet to survive, it’s important to pay more attention to their teachings and knowledge, and respect their rights”.
Throughout the conference, students engaged in a spectrum of workshops facilitated by external organizations and peers from international schools. These sessions ranged from delving into the complexities of war and armed conflict law with the Red Cross and raising awareness about homelessness through knitting to gaining a profound understanding of the vital role of trees and exploring the realities of regions like Turkmenistan and Somalia and the impact of external aid.
The conference offered an opportunity for students to get a better understanding of the global issues at hand. Several students, like Camille, offered reflections on what they at the workshops, “Before attending the ‘Sold into Silence’ workshop, I made the assumption that human exploitation only happened in some places, but I realized that this is something that could unfortunately happen a lot closer to home.”
Nora shared how the sessions on trees helped her understand their vital role for the survival of ecosystems, but how at the same time “industries like agriculture and fast-fashion puts them (and us) in danger.”
The Gender Equality Workshop that our four Grade 8 students – Stella, Gabi, Matteo, and Daria – led is also an example of how awareness can be a catalyst for creating a positive impact. The session addressed the current status of gender equality at local and global levels, placing a special focus on proactive responses to gender inequality.
At the same time, such access to information and stories is key to igniting a sense of hope among young people, particularly because young individuals hold the potential to shape a more sustainable and inclusive future. Creating a sense of hope, community, collaboration and excitement to take on these challenges is imperative for creating solutions. Addie shared,“At the (in)visible homeless session, I realized how much more there is in how people become homeless…we thought of ways we could prevent homelessness from happening, and worked out good ways to incorporate and integrate homeless people by providing them with jobs and shelter.”
The Global Issues Network Day (GIN) conference showed the power of youth-driven initiatives in addressing pressing global challenges. With the theme centering on collective action our students engaged in insightful dialogue, leaving inspired to make meaningful contributions towards a more sustainable and equitable future for all.