Munira Khalif, 20, will spend the next year as the United States’ youth observer to the United Nations, showing millennials their place on the international stage.
“A lot of young people … don’t feel like their voice matters,” said Khalif, the daughter of Somali immigrants.
“To be able to take on this role and say, ‘Yes, your voice does matter, and yes, the work that you’re doing is important in shaping our world,’ is something that I think is not only unique to the role, but also just important in general,” said Khalif, a junior at Harvard University.
The Minnesota native will push education and women’s and girls’ issues, matters that are close to her heart. In high school, she founded Light the Way, a youth-run nonprofit focused on educating East African children, especially girls.
During the coming year, she’ll visit colleges all over the nation to meet students and get a pulse on issues they want raised at the U.N. She hopes to represent their diverse opinions.
Since 2012, the United Nations Association of the USA and the U.S. Department of State have appointed a youth observer each year to boost engagement in global affairs. Khalif follows Nicol Perez, who served as the U.S. youth observer for 2016–2017.
Khalif’s first major participatory event will be this September’s U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. While there, in addition to representing American young people, she will meet other youth observers from around the world. In 2016, 37 countries sent 66 young delegates to the U.N. General Assembly meeting.
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Khalif will attend while also juggling a full load of courses at Harvard, where she’s studying economics and government.
“Young people are students. We have jobs, and yet at the same time, it’s important that we find ways to be able to engage,” Khalif said. “I not only want to be able to talk the talk on those issues, but to walk the walk and be someone who’s actively engaged … even though I’m a student.”
This article was written by freelance writer Lenore T. Adkins.