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written by Asli Ertem

“What can a single person change anyway?” We are all familiar with this question. It is a sentence we hear in the middle of a hot conversation or a slinking thought in our head once in a while. But we have to keep in mind that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and a single action will go a long way. As the YouthSpeak Forum Organizing Team, we shared some of our little steps we take towards awareness and sustainability every day:

Carolyn Lai
University of Vienna • Politics

Coming from Malaysia, diving is a must. I love the ocean and life under water. It gives me great pain to know that water pollution is a serious problem in Malaysia. Because I grew up in one of the most metropolitan cities in South East Asia, Kuala Lumpur, it never occurred to me how statically water pollution was increasing. Each year, beaches become more unsanitary. The fish in our rivers contain 80% plastic. Generally, Malaysia lacks a central agency to manage the overall aspects of water resources management, so I decided to take it into my own hands. Tap water in Malaysia is not drinkable, so for as long as I can remember, my family buys big bottles of filtered water to put into our water dispenser at home resulting in the disposal of four 5 litre plastic bottles each week. To take action, I now boil tap water to decrease the number of disposed plastic bottles each week and encouraged my grandma to do the same. Now whenever water is served in our household, it is boiled tap water.  I hope that one day, all families in Malaysia will mirror this action step. I stand for SDG14 & SDG 6.

Valeriya Palhuyeva
University of Vienna • International Development

According to the data published on the website “Global Index of Slavery”, at the moment there are 40,3 million slaves in the world. Have you ever wondered how many slaves work for you? Don’t be shocked by this question, because victims of modern slavery may be people of all nationalities and cultures. No one in the modern world is protected from slavery. The general terms “modern slavery”, “forced labor” and “human trafficking” are used to refer to the act of recruiting, harbouring, transporting, delivering or obtaining a person for the purpose of using it for forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation by physical force, deception or coercion. Look around you and think, do you really know how the things you buy were made? That your smart phone, t-shirt, computer, cup of coffee…

Out of the 17 SDGs, human trafficking is specifically mentioned in three targets under three goals: 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and 16 (Peace Justice and Strong Institutions). However, many other goals are related to combating human trafficking, which is deeply rooted in development issues in general, including poverty, education, child labor, abuse and exploitation, gender inequality and discrimination, migration, and the effects of climate change.

Be Aware! How many slaves work for you?

Asli Ertem
University of Vienna • Sociology

When I watched the ‘True Cost’ documentary a few years ago I was shocked by the reality of fast fashion and my ignorant consumer habits. It was a wakeup call for me to realize how we damage our environments and support all kind of inequalities for the sake of following cheap, fast fashion trends.

I stand for SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities and SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. I decided to learn more about the concept of responsible consumption and change my habits accordingly. First, I changed the way I look at wearing fancy outfits every single day in general and minimized my shopping activities to few times a year from sustainable brands. Now, I also try to follow and go to second-hand markets and events in the city. But most importantly, when I don’t need or wear something, I make sure to donate them. And I really recommend that to every single person!

Interested to learn more and do more to create your own impact and take action? Join us at the YouthSpeak Forum 2019!