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Meet Smriti and Moneera: young researchers exploring the impact of COVID-19

While lessons were learned at the sessions, youth researchers shined at the opportunity to represent their voices to officials and to each other. This meeting was a chance for youth researchers to see their projects, recommendations, and discussions come to life. Moreover, it paved the way to open additional opportunities to these youth researchers by giving more visibility to the program and the hard work of the program participants.

For Smriti and Moneera, one such opportunity included the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, which occurred a few weeks after the Policy Conference. The Forum provided a platform for young people to engage in a dialogue with Member States and other actors on concrete actions to respond to COVID-19. Smriti spoke on a panel that amplified youth perspectives on the future of education (SDG4), while Moneera spoke on partnerships for the goals (SDG17), drawing on youth expertise and youth perspectives. For Smriti, “It was so many different perspectives coming together in one place…You always read studies about these researchers and organizations, but it was very nice to see youth talking about their own issues because it felt more relatable, even if it was in a different part of the world.

Through her YAR experience, Smriti also presented about the impact of COVID-19 on school closures in South Asia at the Comparative and International Education Society Conference and wrote a special focus chapter about youth responses to COVID-19. “YAR has been a lifechanging experience in terms of my professional development because it gave me a lot more opportunities than just one YAR,” Smriti explains.

This is a testament to UNESCO and the UNESCO Chairs fulfilling one of the main goals of YAR initiatives: capacity building. After this program, young researchers are using the skills they strengthened through the project as they continue their journey beyond YAR to influence future research and policies.