UP Young Leader is a Global Changemaker
Courtney Gehle, a 22-year-old honours student in Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP), has been selected by the European Commission from a global pool of candidates as one of their 16 Young Leaders for Development . She will be presenting at Europe’s leading forum on international co-operation and development, the European Development Days (EDD) summit, which will take place on 7 and 8 June in Brussels, Belgium. The 16 Young Leaders, all aged between 21 and 26, come from all over the world, with strong representation from Africa, including representatives from Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, The Gambia, Botswana, Zambia, and of course, South Africa.
The EDD summit is an annual gathering where ideas and experiences are shared to find innovative solutions to the most pressing global development challenges. It aims at tackling poverty worldwide through economic development. The main theme at this year’s summit is investing in development, which is closely linked to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
These Young Leaders will be part of high-level panel discussions, sharing a stage with presidents and other world leaders. Sessions will focus on a variety of topics that espouse a commitment to a fairer, more sustainable future, and Gehle will be presenting on the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative and on Trade and Fair Globalisation. Gehle will use the opportunity to introduce the human element of what is happening on the ground, especially regarding women and youth, to these high-level policy discussions. She is particularly interested in the human side of development and is focusing her studies on sustainable development, which will surely guide her in preparing for her presentation and participation in the panel discussions.
In the days leading up to this year’s EDD summit, the European Commission will provide the Young Leaders with training in both protocol and public speaking, providing a great opportunity to learn and grow. With almost every international development organisation present at this year’s summit, from various United Nations bodies to regional Development Banks and everything in between, it offers the perfect platform to network and build relationships with the international development community.
The EDD summit will certainly aid Gehle’s current initiative, The Better Tomorrow Movement, which is an online youth empowerment platform that she founded after being selected as a Global Changemaker and attending the Global Youth Summit last year. This initiative was inspired by the dynamic people she met at the summit, and it aims to inspire, empower and support people who are making a positive difference in the world. The initiative also runs an international mentorship programme for young people who want to make their difference. Later this year, Gehle will be attending the Global Youth Summit again, but this time as a peer facilitator.
In between all her international trips, initiatives and studies, Gehle has also started working part-time for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation’s Global Cleantech Innovation Programme. This aligns with her interest in promoting technologies that make it easier for people to be ‘green’. She says juggling it all is challenging at times, but that fortunately, her lecturers are used to her shenanigans by now.
Thinking about her future, Gehle says she would love to live and work in other parts of Africa. Her life motto is a quote by Desmond Tutu: ‘Do your little bit of good where you are with what you have.’ Gehle is certainly on the right path to make a difference in the world.
– Author Louise de Bruin