We frequently ask children, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ More accurately the question is ‘what profession do you want to pursue?’ Doctor, lawyer, nurse, and teacher are the top of our minds when we ask this question. While we think within these vocational parameters’ children speak of a world not limited by our knowledge of how the world works. Children speak of being things other than a profession, for instance, a friend’s four-year-old son wants to be a truck, more specifically a fire truck, this he is certain is his destiny. It may be possible for him with the advances in technology and the merge between the biological and the mechanical, but he may also be communicating something else to his mother. I think the question is not what he wants to be, but rather who he wants to be the type of person he wants to become. That is a person who is there for others in times of need, caring, and strong.

The United Nations theme for this years’ International Youth Day is Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health. Food insecurity is rife globally often disproportionately affecting people in the developing world, and as most people in these parts of the world are young food insecurity affects them the most. This year’s theme places youth participation at the centre of innovations in food systems.

In many areas of life young people are being left out, decisions taken about their futures without their participation. However, young people from around the world have resisted this status quo, forging new ways in the world, a world that is based on equity and equality, rather than the professions people occupy. Illustrated in the RhodesMustFall movements that began in South Africa and spread to other parts of the world, to the climate activism of such people a Vanessa Nakate and Grater Thunberg. We have seen young people speak against social injustice when it comes to food security and innovation such as Navina Khanna, who focus on the importance of sustainability in food systems.

This year’s youth day theme is a call to think about a world where children can be anything they imagine but also a reminder that young people have the capacity to create and sustain the world they imagine. Food security and innovation offer room for young people to have a voice in issues of land distribution, poverty and nutrition, farm labour, distribution, and logistics. Thus, not only placing the youth at the centre of food systems and innovation but also placing food innovation and security at the centre of the possibilities.

Author: Dr Sipho Dlamini 

PsySSA Executive Member

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