by Charlotte Evans, Research Associate at Hotii Ts’eeda

At the 2019 Ahimsa Forum, I had the opportunity to sit on a youth panel and discuss the future of global health with the recently retired Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Michael Moller. He spoke of multiple co-occurring and interrelated global crises and the need for collaboration in order to craft innovative yet sustainable solutions. His request of myself and my fellow panelists was simple “you are inheriting a messy world, tell me what you intend to do about it – what is your plan?”. I wrestled with this question throughout the rest of the conference. What are my responsibilities as a young person in global health? More broadly, how does and how should youth voice inform global health governance and systems development?

I reflected on these questions in a letter to Jean-François. In the letter, I shared that while I strongly believed that youth voice is critical to catalyzing transformation in global health, I did not see clear pathways of collaboration between youth and global health experts. As an avid supporter of youth, Jean-François saw a similar gap, and untapped potential for critical knowledge generation. Supported by the Ahimsa team, we have been working on bridging this gap and uniting youth and global health experts in the pursuit of social justice, inclusion and hope within the global health field. 

Over the past few months, our work has been re-defined and given new meaning by pandemic. Covid-19 has exposed a world riddled and governed by inequity. In so doing, it has highlighted the urgency for fresh thinking around who and what we value and how this is represented and supported by the systems we serve and function in. The Ahimsa team founded the Ahimsa Renaissance Movement (ARM) to address these questions. ARM brings together a team of diverse global health actors to develop a new vision and mandate for a society that prioritizes global justice and equity by listening and learning from the voices of those that are traditionally overlooked. 

Among those voices, the most energetic and visionary are those of youth. In January we will be launching the Ahimsa Renaissance Fellowship Program – a year-long fellowship focused on building young leaders in global health and empowering them to embody and pursue a new vision of leadership and governance in global health. The fellowship pairs youth alongside adult experts to collectively re-imagine the global health field. Fellows will also be engaged in community-based projects lead by organizations within Ahimsa’s diverse network of partners. We hope the fellows will bring lessons and teachings from the communities they work with to inform ARM activities and directives.

Last week, I participated in a second panel with Michael Moller – this time on Zoom. He asked the same question “What are you going to do, what is your plan?”. This time, I was able to answer with confidence. While I do not have an individual plan, I am confident that alongside the insights and expertise of the Ahimsa Renaissance Fellows, we will be able to collectively develop a plan to address the health challenges and inequities that our world faces today.

I am thrilled for the opportunity and support from the Ahimsa foundation that has seen this vision realized. I am excited for the work to come and to meet the group of fellows in January of 2021.