The International Road Federation (IRF), in collaboration with YOURS – Youth for Road Safety, held a Young Professionals Summit earlier this Wednesday, 30 September. The IRF Young Professionals program is a platform for the next generation of leaders and specialists on the road and mobility sector to propose ideas, share initiatives, and engage with other activities by the IRF. 

Youth Opportunities Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

The panel was led by Global Youth Coalition Youth Advisory Board Member Maolin Macatangay and featured youth leaders from different fields. The panel included Alison Collard de Beaufort, founder and executive director of the Vision Zero Youth Council (VZYC); Bashiru Mansaray, founder of Open Space Corporation (OS Corp) tech company; and Tumwine Hosea, Community Development officer of the Resilient Women’s Organization.

The panelists talked about how social media has helped connect with youth and reach wider audiences when it came to addressing how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their work. “Social media is powerful, unavoidable. With it, we can reach more young people, connecting with them, and raising awareness on issues that matter. This is the time to take advantage of technology,” says Tumwine.

Alison acknowledged this and notes how the world has adopted the “remote model”, using tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Webinars as ways to help keep the conversation going. Alison also believes that the energy of youth continues to show even in the middle of the global pandemic. “Let’s take the energy we have and take it toward fighting for what is right,” she says.

Coming from the employability sector, Bashiru shared his experience as youth who has trouble looking for work, especially during the global pandemic. As a solution, he created his own company where he helped youth like him find jobs. “Because of the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, people are having trouble coming to work. OS Corp provides a virtual space where offices and other businesses can continue their tasks in the comfort of their homes,” Bashiru notes.

How Sustainable Transport Relates with Other Fields
The areas of road safety and sustainable mobility is seen in different facets of everyone’s daily routines. Working in the road safety field, Alison sees this a lot. Sustainable transport is an important issue for VZYC. Based in New York, Alison and her team see how mobility and road safety is not just limited to transportation but also in health, climate, and safety. The VZYC wants to reduce traffic deaths and injuries to zero through its street safety program.

Bashiru sees the importance of sustainable transport in his community in Sierra Leone where some villages are located far away from the city.

The locations are connected by poorly constructed and unsafe roads, making it hard for people to reach food, supplies, and other amenities. 

This poor road quality affects the safety of road users in the area and their daily needs which includes getting food, going to work, or going to school. Because of limited modes of transport, the fare for traveling is also significantly high.

Meanwhile, Tumwine’s work at the Resilient Women’s Organization often involves him and his team going to remote areas with unsafe and unpaved roads to reach small communities in Uganda.

Safe and sustainable transport is necessary so his organization can connect with vulnerable women to provide them with education and other necessary resources that will help with the fight toward women’s social and economic empowerment.

Getting Started
The panelists are leaders in their respective rights. Youth have the passion to push for positive change in society so the panelists shared some insights on how young people can start leading movements connected with their passions and advocacies.

Alison shared the importance of finding a group that shares the same interests and beliefs as you. There doesn’t have to be complete education on the topic of advocacy – this will be achieved along the journey – what is important is that you get a good group of people to join you in your advocacy, says Alison. “Peer-to-peer interaction is very important because, with youth, the passion to try to solve societal issues will translate into the conversation.”

Bashiru also noted the importance of having a good group of people that helps fill in each other’s weaknesses so that a strong team is built.

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In our society, more and more young people use social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like, and every day on these networks put their photos taken in different situations.