01 February 2017

Youth Marketplace on Social Innovations for Health and Wellbeing

An event in the margins of 2017 ECOSOC Youth Forum brought together young entrepreneurs from around the world to highlight the role of youth, the custodians of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in promoting health and wellbeing in a changing world.

The event Youth Marketplace on Social Innovations for Health and Wellbeing: Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals looked into ideas to promote meaningful youth engagement to support the implementation of sustainable development in the area of health and wellbeing, focusing on accountability and the three pillars of the Every Woman Every Child  Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health: Survive (end preventable deaths), Thrive (ensure health and wellbeing), Transform (expand enabling environments).

Moderated by Ms. Trisha Shetty, Founder & CEO, SheSays, India, the event was a pitching session with four young social entrepreneurs, addressing underlying structural causes of death and ill-health among young people. Participants in the room and a global digital audience challenged the presenters, asking questions about some key problems faced by young people and how the proposed projects will help overcome them.

With 1.8 billion adolescents in the world today, young people’s aspirations, needs and rights are central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By acknowledging that the future of humanity lies with the “younger generation who will pass the torch to future generations,” their key role in achieving the 2030 Agenda is widely recognized.

Despite making up a sixth of the global population—even a third of the population in many countries—adolescents’ health and wellbeing needs are not comprehensively addressed. Globally, an estimated 1.3 million adolescents die each year from preventable or treatable causes such as road injuries, HIV, suicide, pneumonia, and violence.

Too few have access to information and counseling and to integrated, youth-friendly services without facing discrimination or other obstacles.

In many settings, adolescent girls and boys face numerous policy, social and legal barriers that harm their physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. Among adolescents living with disabilities or in crisis situations, the barriers are even greater.

By helping adolescents realize their rights to health, wellbeing, education and full and equal participation in society, we are equipping them with the ability to attain their full potential as adults.

Inequalities, income levels and opportunities, especially for youth, have reached their highest levels recorded in more than half a century. If countries in demographic transition make the right human capital investments and adopt policies that expand opportunities for young people, their combined demographic dividends could be enormous.

The President of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly has endeavored to engage young people as key agents for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Similarly, the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health acknowledges not only the unique health challenges facing young people, but also their pivotal role alongside women and children as key drivers of change and agents for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Participants in the room, panelists and a global digital audience mobilized via social media challenge the presenters, asking questions about their projects. 


Ms. Trisha Shetty, Founder & CEO, SheSays, India

Ms. Shetty is a lawyer, social activist (Founder & CEO, SheSays) and one of the 17 UN Young Leaders for the SDGs chosen by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. Her work is focussed on women’s rights and advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. SheSays is a registered nonprofit in India that advocates for gender equality and educates, rehabilitates and empowers women to take direct action against sexual violence. It provides tools and resources for women, including access to legal, medical and psychological support. SheSays works with established institutions across the education, entertainment and healthcare sectors to build a network of support that recognizes all levels of sexual abuse and provides the necessary means to fight it.

Learn more about the young entrepreneurs and their pitches at the event: 

Ms. Christen Brandt, Co-founder & Chief Programs Officer, She’s the First

Ms. Brandt is a feminist, an activist, a self-defense instructor, and an avid troublemaker. She is the co-founder and chief programs officer at She’s the First, an NGO that provides scholarships for quality girls’ education worldwide. She’s the First began as a grassroots movement in 2009, and has since grown into a million-dollar organization that provides scholarships to girls in 11 countries, where they partner with local organizations for sustainable impact, and engages 200 campus chapters of high school and college students in advocacy and fundraising for girls’ education.

Mr. Alpha Sennon, Founder, WHYFARM

Mr. Alpha Sennon is a farmerpreneur, student and advocate with a passion for youth development in the agricultural sector. Former President and executive member of the University of the West Indies Agribusiness Society, he currently, serves as an ambassador for the Thought for Food Global Foundation and a business mentor for agriculture with the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods. Mr. Sennon is the founder the non-profit  WHYFARM, which aims to promote agriculture as a viable career option for young people, by increasing their awareness of the world’s food problems and by doing so, grow the future feeders of 2050.

Ms. Natasha Puri, representing emp(a)t(h)y

Ms. Puri is an undergraduate student in the Global Public Health and Social Entrepreneurship programme at New York University. She has been an active youth advocate in promoting public health prevention efforts and health policy through her work with the United Nations Youth Assembly, Physicians for Human Rights, and United Way. She pitched emp(a)t(h)y, an app that focuses on peer support and empathy for individuals with shared experiences. Their tagline, “Empathy not Sympathy” came from the realization that talking to someone else who is going through a similar bad time (death of a parent, failure in class, breakups) is often much more helpful than professional help. 

Ms. Ashley Ngwenya, representing ACT!2015 Alliance, Zimbabwe

Ms. Ngwenya is an ever-smiling fun-loving, young Zimbabwean woman who believes that the realization of human rights is the first step toward a conflict-free society. She is an active member of the ACT!2015 alliance in Zimbabwe, and currently works with Youth Engage as their Advocacy and Communications manager. She has a degree in Development, and in her free time loves to act, write songs, and dance. ACT!2015, a collaborative platform to drive accountability at all levels, is a youth-led social action aimed at strengthening young people’s evidence gathering and data analysis skills to facilitate advocacy and accountability around policies that limit young people’s access to services.

Panelists at the event included: 
Mr. Niels Caszo, President, AIESEC International

Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Mr. Caszo hopes to one day redefine what it means to be a “billionaire:” positively impacting the lives of a billion people. Having degree in Economics and Commerce, he is a young leader passionate about transformational leadership and an international outlook of today’s youth. In 2016, Mr. Caszo was elected President of AIESEC International, one of the world’s largest youth-led organizations with the mission to promote peace and fulfillment of humankind’s potential. AIESEC does this by creating challenging opportunities for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential. Mr. Caszo was formerly the Vice President for Product Innovation on the Global team and, before that, the President for AIESEC in the United States.

Prof. Chris Dickey, Director, Global Professional Studies and Entrepreneurship, New York University

Dr. Dickey DrPH, MBA is Director of Global Health, Professional Studies and Entrepreneurship at NYU’s College of Global Public Health, where he is a Clinical Associate Professor of Global Public Health. Dr. Dickey is an international development innovator and public health entrepreneur who co-founded a company that provides clean water and primary care in villages in India and has been working with UN agencies to advance innovative approaches to improving access to and utilization of health services. Dr. Dickey is also creating a new public health entrepreneurship program at CGPH to address the demand for a new generation of public health practitioners with the skillsets and opportunities to create innovative, scalable, and sustainable business models either as stand-alone entities or within a larger corporation.

Ms. Irem Tumer, Youth Innovator Fellow, UNFPA

Ms. Tumer is one of nine Youth Innovator Fellows at UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. She is spending a year at the Agency Headquarters in New York to develop and implement projects and ideas related to how the organisation can better work with young people. She is a 25-year old lawyer from Ankara, Turkey with a long prior involvement in various youth networks and organisations such as the European Youth Parliament and Women Deliver. Ms. Tumer previously worked as a lawyer in Turkey, focusing mainly on dispute resolution. She is also currently pursuing a Human Rights Law LL.M. at Istanbul Bilgi University Law School and has been involved in a number of United Nations projects and events, mainly focusing on youth participation.

Lic. María Fernanda Olvera Cabrera, Director General, INJUVE, Mexico

Born in México City, Lic. Maria Fernanda Olvera Cabrera is an expert in youth affairs. Since December 2012 she was invited by the city Major Mr. Miguel Ángel Mancera as Director General at the Youth Institute of Mexico City (INJUVE CDMX) for the current administration (2013-2018). Convinced that plurality, diversity and heterogeneity of young people in Mexico City (2.6 million between 12-29 years old) should be the main key for the design and implementation of public policies, she developed innovative models of social intervention in order to translate their voices and needs into actions to improve their lives. Under her leadership Mexico City received the “Outstanding World Achievement”, at the “My World Partner Recognition Awards” at the United Nations Headquarters, for the exceptional participation of INJUVE as the first local government to reach out 1.6 million voices in the “My World” survey.