Breaking Barriers: Youth Leading SDG7 Panel Session

The Event: Breaking Barriers: Youth Leading SDG7 hosted at the Green Zone, SDG7 pavilion at COP26. The pavilion is co-Hosted by SEforALL, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the IKEA Foundation. November 5, 2021.

Panel Host

Helen Watts – Senior Director of Global Partnership at Student Energy.


Eduarda Zoghbi – Student Energy alumni, Columbia University MPA, Energy and Environment Candidate.

Alejandra Valdivia – Student Energy Alumni, Former president SE chapter at UTEC, Peru.

Brian Kakembo – Student Energy Board of Directors member, CEO of WEYE Clean Energy Ltd.

Mihskakwan James Harper – Vice-Chair Sponsorship at SevenGen.

Caroline Baxter Tresise – Community of Practice Facilitator, Clean and Affordable Energy at UNDP.


Young people challenge to access finance

Challenges to accessing finance differ between the global north and the global south. In the global south such as Uganda, lack of have credit histories, bank accounts and organizational affiliation makes access to credit finance for clean energy projects difficult in the region. Access to quality education and climate education also plays a crucial role in helping create awareness of climate and energy problems and implementing ideas and solutions. Initiatives such as the Solutions Movement, Sevengen provides young people and indigenous communities with mentoring, platforms and funding to enable them to brainstorm strategies to take action, and also access funds and support for their projects.

Lack of inclusion and representation of young people in decision making

Young people aren’t only under-represented but also underestimated. There is the “youth-washing”- where organizations and institutions include youth in their work structure, making it seems they are involved with the youths – but exclude them from decision making and policies. The youths aren’t only interested in being present in the spaces but also interested in engaging in all the process which leads to policy changes. There is also a need for the youth to be prepared, organized and rally together in a unified position to amplify shared interest. There is also a need for an attitude shift across the board to allow and enable meaningful youth participation across this space.

Notable quotes

“Energy Access and meeting SDG7 is not just about getting people to access to the bare minimum—it’s about extending the same opportunities to education, employment and to platforms like this.” –Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO Seforall

“Energy and climate change complexities and jargon can be alienating and removed from indigenous young people’s realities. We shouldn’t expect indigenous youth to engage on this limited terms and rigid process—we need to connect with why they are present in the first place; a desire to help their families, honour their leaders and seek justice for their land.”–James Harper

Sometimes youth engagement takes a lot of resources and time. If you actually care about incorporating young people’s feedback and engaging a truly diverse group of youth—leaders need to commit to that. Organizing a youth council or program is not enough.”–Alejandra Valdivia

“Decision-makers need to engage with the work that youth produce, the call to actions and recommendations that youth pour so many labours into.”–Brian Kakembo

“A lot of the onus is being placed on young people – but international and government organizations also know they need to stay relevant, and they need the youth. That’s an entry point for young people, to be selective of where to contribute.”–Caroline Baxter

Click here to access the full recording of the session.

You can also check out our latest blog for a full recap of Student Energy engagements and achievements at COP26.