Fostering Transformational Leadership for Sustainable Development: Inspiring Change for a Better Future

By Yvette Odoyo

In today’s world, the pursuit of sustainable development has become more critical than ever. It requires visionary leaders who can inspire and drive positive change, not just for their benefit, but for the well-being of future generations and the planet. This blog post explores practical examples of transformational leadership at various levels – individuals, systems, and societies – and delves into how they impact sustainable development. Furthermore, we’ll discuss the areas where transformational leadership is lacking and explore strategies to foster this essential quality in individuals, institutions, and systems.

Examples of Transformational Leadership for Sustainable Development:

Individuals: Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai serves as a remarkable example of an individual who transformed her community and beyond. Through the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, she empowered women to combat deforestation and promote environmental conservation. Her leadership not only improved livelihoods but also fostered sustainable development by planting trees and raising awareness.

Systems: Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) index exemplifies transformational leadership at the system level. Instead of solely focusing on economic growth, Bhutan’s leadership adopted GNH as a holistic measure of well-being, incorporating sustainable development, environmental conservation, cultural preservation, and good governance. This approach ensures long-term sustainable development beyond GDP growth.

Societies: The Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden – stand as shining examples of transformational leadership at the societal level. These nations prioritize social welfare, equality, education, and environmental sustainability. Their leadership has resulted in inclusive societies with strong social safety nets, high living standards, and a commitment to sustainable development.

Identifying Gaps and Challenges: Unfortunately, transformational leadership remains lacking in regions plagued by political instability, weak governance, and limited resources. Additionally, areas with deep-rooted social inequalities, corruption, or conflicts struggle to adopt transformational practices. Lack of awareness, resistance to change, and short-term thinking also hinder the implementation of transformational leadership approaches.

Fostering Transformational Leadership:

Education and Awareness: To foster transformational leadership, education plays a pivotal role. Integrating sustainability into curricula at all levels and promoting leadership development programs can instill a long-term perspective, ethics, and social responsibility. By raising awareness, we can empower individuals to embrace sustainable practices and inspire change.

Empowering Individuals: Supporting individuals in developing leadership skills, critical thinking, and empathy is vital. Mentorship programs, leadership training, and collaborative platforms create environments conducive to transformational leadership. It is key to encourage individuals to think beyond their immediate interests and consider broader societal and environmental impacts.

Institutional Support: Institutions and organizations have a responsibility to promote sustainable development and encourage transformational leadership. By implementing policies that incentivize innovation, sustainable practices, and social responsibility, institutions can create an environment that nurtures transformational leaders. Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion principles is also essential.

Policy and Governance: Governments and policymakers hold the power to foster transformational leadership on a systemic level. By implementing policies supporting sustainable development, environmental protection, and social justice, and ensuring good governance, they set the stage for change. Transparency, accountability, and public participation further drive transformational leadership.


At the heart of fostering transformational leadership lies human agency. It is about recognizing our potential to make a difference, challenging the status quo, and taking responsibility for our actions. Through individual agency, we can shape institutions and systems, influence decision-making processes, and promote sustainable development. Each one of us has the power to become a transformational leader and contribute to a better future.


Wevyn Muganda holding a placard at the Global Schools2030 Forum in Porto, Portugal

Schools2030 Forum; Nexus Between Peacebuilding and Education

By Wevyn Muganda

I recently attended the Schools2030 Forum in Porto, Portugal courtesy of UNICEF Generation Unlimited; the world’s biggest public private partnership for young people and one of the partners of the forum. The Schools2030 is a programme based in 1,000 government schools across ten countries aimed at improving participatory learning and the quality of education as a whole. The forum is hosted by Aga Khan Foundation and partners from different stakeholders including teachers, governments, civil society and philanthropy institutions.

The Forum was interactive and engaging in different thematic areas of education. Discussions centred around inclusivity and pluralism in learning institutions. From sharing innovative practices to co-creating solutions through a human-centred design to interactive side events, the forum was insightful and enriching.

On the last day, I had the privilege of delivering the opening remarks where I talked about some of the youth engagement work I have done with young people. I highlighted the Youth Public Private Partnership model by UNICEF Generation Unlimited that positions youth and youth expertise at the core of decision making.

Because I started my advocacy and development career as a human rights activist, my approach is always human rights-centred and intersectional, acknowledging that, the lack of one fundamental freedom affects the fulfilment of others. Therefore, as a peacebuilder, education is not just about learning in schools and acquiring skills for the job market. Education is a critical tool for peacebuilding and is a transformative process that can help to restore trust and social cohesion, enabling communities to come together and work towards common goals.

In post-conflict and crisis situations, education is critical in supporting communities to recover and rebuild their lives. Schools are avenues for knowledge, socialization and the creation of identities that ultimately shape the way young people perceive their roles in society. They can also provide safe spaces for children and youth to learn, play, and interact with their peers. If education is not equitable and accessible to all young people, then it can undermine peacebuilding and deepen social injustices. Schools have in some instances been places for radicalization, gender-based violence, discrimination and exclusion, particularly for women, girls and other marginalised groups of young people.

Education and education institutions should create opportunities for the promotion of human rights and well-being of young people ultimately contributing to their human development. Education must therefore be contextualized and continuously evolve. Curriculums must change, our teachers must continuously be trained, and education systems must adapt to the generation of learners, socio-political needs and contexts to ensure that every young person, particularly those at the margins can gain quality education.

To do this, young people must be included, because ultimately every intervention such as programmes and policies designed must add value to young people’s lives. The meaningful engagement and inclusion of young people in decision-making are paramount to the success of youth programmes and policies. Young people are the experts in their lives and their agency must therefore be recognised. Participation is a key pillar of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda that recognises young people’s role in peacebuilding. It also recognises the role that education has to play in peacebuilding. Through peace education, formal education and other non-formal spaces of learning such as through sports, arts and culture, young people can be equipped for the world we live in today and in the future.

But educational institutions cannot achieve these goals alone. It requires the support and collaboration of a range of actors, including governments, civil society organizations, and international partners. Together, these stakeholders can work to ensure that education is equitable, accessible, and of high quality for all children and youth – regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances.

Based on the forum’s discussions, my key takeaways to enhancing quality education for all children and youth are;

  • Strengthen Partnerships and Network Coordination to maximise resources and avoid duplication of efforts

  • Intergenerational leadership is critical in tapping into the knowledge and expertise of young people and the older generation. Youth Inclusion should be an opportunity, not a threat.

  • Human rights-based and intersectional approaches can increase the effectiveness of education to address social inequalities such as gender inequality, racism, social exclusion, climate change etc. An inclusive and holistic system of education is not only important but necessary if we are to leave no one behind

  • Listen, Amplify and Consider the voices of young people in decision-making. The lived experiences are invaluable knowledge to policy and programming

  • Invest in solutions designed and led by young people and their educators. There can be no sustainable development without financing.

  • Last and most importantly; the protection of the rights of young people in schools and communities must be at the top of all our priorities. Every young person deserves a safe and dignifying environment that encourages learning, creativity and development.


Empowering Youths through the World Programme for Human Rights Education

By Yvette Odoyo

The United Nations Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 6 October 2022 reaffirms the commitment to human rights education and the implementation of the World Programme for Human Rights Education. As young people, we have a crucial role to play in this journey. So, let’s take a moment to reflect on what this resolution means for us and how we can make a difference through the World Programme for Human Rights Education.

Building Respect for Human Rights

Imagine a world where everyone understands and respects human rights. Well, that’s exactly what this resolution aims to achieve. It highlights the power of education in strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. By integrating human rights education into schools, colleges, and various professional sectors, we can equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills needed to stand up for our rights and the rights of others.

Aligning with Sustainable Development Goals

We appreciate the alignment of the World Programme for Human Rights Education with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goals specifically emphasize the importance of human rights education, and that’s where the youth come in. By incorporating human rights education into national plans of action, the program contributes to the broader goal of creating inclusive and equitable societies. By actively participating in the implementation of this program, we can contribute to creating accountable, just, and empowering societies, one step at a time. As youths we must show the world that we’re not just dreamers but doers!

Youth Empowerment

The Human Rights Council resolution recognizes the pivotal role of young people in advancing human rights education. With the establishment of the United Nations Youth Office, dedicated to youth affairs, we are encouraged by the increased focus on youth participation and engagement. The resolution acknowledges that youth should be a central focus in the fourth phase of the World Programme, emphasizing their perspectives, experiences, and challenges. That means we have the power to shape the programs and policies that will impact our lives and the lives of future generations.

Ensuring Gender Equality

Equality matters, and that includes gender equality. The resolution rightly highlights the importance of ensuring that women benefit from the World Programme on an equal footing. Gender equality is an integral part of human rights, and it is essential to address the unique challenges faced by young women and girls. By promoting inclusive and gender-sensitive human rights education, the program creates a foundation for building societies that value and uphold the rights of all individuals, regardless of gender.

International Collaboration and Support

Creating change is a team effort, and this resolution recognizes that. It acknowledges the collaborative efforts of United Nations agencies, civil society, and youth organizations in advancing human rights education globally. That means we’re not alone in this journey! We have access to methodological training support, capacity building, and technical assistance to help us play an active role in promoting human rights education at the grassroots level.

In summary, the adoption of the United Nations Resolution on the World Programme for Human Rights Education reaffirms the commitment to promoting and protecting human rights through education. As young people, we view this resolution as an empowering opportunity to advocate for our rights and actively contribute to the implementation of the program. By integrating human rights education into various sectors and ensuring the inclusion of youth perspectives, the World Programme lays a strong foundation for building a future that respects and upholds the rights of all individuals. Through education and collaboration, we can create a future where human rights are respected and protected. So, let’s rise up, step into our roles as global citizens, and make a lasting impact. The power is in our hands!

Four women in a conference panel

Creating Inclusive Environments for Youth Economic Equity

By Wevyn Muganda

At the Global Youth Economic Summit held in Maryland, US between May 16-18, 2023, I spoke about the importance of creating inclusive environments that respect intersectional identities, promote youth voices, and foster economic equity. These are crucial components of any effort to ensure that young people can thrive in today’s world. 

Here are some of the key points I covered:

Changing the Culture

To create truly inclusive environments, we must be willing to reflect on our own privileges and positionalities and how they relate to power (or the lack of it). This means challenging our understanding of how intersecting axes of identity (such as race, gender, and class) can compound or mitigate our experiences of economic equity. 

Keeping the Doors Open

We must also actively work to ensure that marginalized youth have access to economic opportunities and resources. This includes providing mentorship, training programs, and other forms of support that can help young people develop the skills and networks needed to succeed.

Partnering for Impact

Developing inclusive environments requires collaboration and partnership across sectors and disciplines. By working together, we can create holistic solutions that address the root causes of economic inequality and promote sustainable development.

In short, dismantling systemic barriers should be a priority for development work to ensure it is sustainable. By creating truly inclusive environments for young people, we can foster economic equity and promote a brighter future for all. 

The road to achieving this goal is not easy. It requires concerted effort and commitment from all stakeholders, including policymakers, educators, civil society actors, and the youth themselves. We must develop targeted policies and programs that are responsive to the unique needs and circumstances faced by marginalized youth. At the same time, we must recognize the value and diversity that young people bring to the table, and work to amplify their voices and perspectives in all aspects of economic development. Only by taking a comprehensive and inclusive approach can we build a truly equitable future for all. This means challenging traditional power structures, like those that prioritize the voices of older people over youth. 

It also means advocating for policies that support marginalized groups, such as those experiencing poverty or discrimination. Additionally, it is important to listen to the experiences of young people and understand their goals and aspirations. By prioritizing inclusivity, we can create an economic system that works for everyone and not just those in power. Ultimately, this will lead to a more just and equitable world, where every individual has the opportunity to succeed.

Taking stock of the progress by Kenya Coalition on YPS

By Yvette Odoyo 

As part of ISIRIKA’s commitment to peacebuilding, the organization mobilized youth leaders and organizations to establish the
Kenya Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security (KCYPS). The Coalition was established in 2022 and was officially launched during the seventh anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250. The coalition brings together youth peacebuilders and youth-led organizations, aiming to strengthen youth-led efforts and enhance coordination of YPS advocacy to ensure its implementation is mainstreamed across different sectors and stakeholders in Kenya.

Our Goal: The coalition’s primary goal is to ensure that Kenyan youth perspectives are meaningfully integrated into national and local legislative decision-making processes on peace and security. To ensure that local efforts and perspectives are adequately incorporated into the coalition’s activities, the coalition seeks to devolve its work through its membership by having county chapters. This approach ensures that the youth’s voices are heard at the grassroots level and that the challenges and issues they face are brought to the government’s and other stakeholders’ attention.

Our Membership: The KCYPS has also established a working group based on the 5 pillars of engagement, including Participation, Prevention, Partnership, and Disarmament, Demobilization, and reintegration (DDR). The establishment of the pillar working groups is essential to ensuring good pillar engagement and progress in the coalition’s efforts to promote youth peace and security issues. This approach enables the coalition to have a targeted approach to address the various issues affecting the youth, including prevention of conflicts, disarmament of weapons, and ensuring that the youth are involved in the peacebuilding process. This effort is aimed to ensure that youth perspectives are integrated into national and local legislative decision-making processes on peace and security. Through its advocacy efforts, the coalition has sensitized policymakers and other stakeholders on the importance of meaningful youth participation in decision-making processes and highlighted youth’s contributions to promoting peace and security.

The KCYPS’s efforts have demonstrated the importance of involving the youth in decision-making processes on peace and security issues. The coalition’s approach of devolving its work through membership by having advocacy pillar groups and county involvement ensures that the youth’s voices are heard at the grassroots level, and the challenges and issues that they face are brought to the attention of the government and other stakeholders.

However, the coalition still faces several challenges that need to be addressed to achieve its goals fully. For instance, the limited participation of marginalized and vulnerable groups in the coalition’s activities. While the coalition has made efforts to ensure inclusivity, there is still a need to do more to ensure that the voices of all youth, including those from marginalized and vulnerable communities, are heard and their perspectives integrated into its initiatives fully.

Our Engagements So Far: One of the significant events that the KCYPS has been part of is the high-level workshop on Youth Peace and Security hosted jointly by the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Youth Affairs, the Arts and Sports – CS Hon. Ababu Namwamba, EGH, and the Ambassador of Finland to KenyaMr Pirkka Tapiola. The workshop was held on 31st March 2023, in light of the recent unrest experienced in Kenya. It was aimed to address youth, peace, and security issues and provide a platform for stakeholders to share their experiences and expertise on this critical topic, as well as the progress made in the National Action Plan (NAP) process for YPS and the challenges that need to be addressed to achieve the goals of the process.

This highlights the commitment of the KCYPS to ensuring the inclusivity of the youth and vulnerable groups in the NAP process. The National Action Plan is expected to provide a framework for addressing youth, peace, and security issues in Kenya and outline specific actions that different stakeholders, including the government, civil society organizations, and the private sector, can take to support youth-led efforts towards sustainable peace.

This commitment was also demonstrated during the roundtable conversation with the Finland Minister of ForeignAffairs, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary for Youth Affairs and the Arts, the Finnish Ambassador to Kenya, and other stakeholders. The roundtable discussion centred around the national YPS implementation process. The coalition members present included organizations such as ISIRIKA Kenya, Kariobangi Social Justice Centre, Tunawiri Africa, Upcoming African Youth Organisation, Kesho Alliance, and other member organizations represented.

Looking to the Future: The coalition has several plans to further strengthen its work and achieve even greater success. One such plan is to create a mentorship program that will pair young people interested in peace and security matters with experienced mentors who can guide and support them in their career development. The coalition also plans to increase its outreach efforts to engage with more young people across Kenya. This will involve creating more partnerships with local organizations and communities to ensure that the coalition’s message reaches as many young people as possible.

Overall, the Kenya Coalition on Youth Peace and Security has made impressive progress since its formation. The coalition’s commitment to promoting youth engagement in peace and security matters is commendable, and its efforts have not gone unnoticed. With more plans in the pipeline, the coalition is poised to achieve even greater success in the coming years.

Thank you!

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ThinkPeace; Our Common Agenda Policy Brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement in PolicyMaking and Decision-making Processes

By Wevyn Muganda

It was only about a few days ago that the UN Secretary-General released Our Common Agenda’s policy brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement in PolicyMaking and Decision-making Processes. I was excited to read it and see the recommendations because these will be crucial in developing the agenda at The Summit of the Future scheduled for 2024.

First, the policy brief primarily aimed at the Member States makes the following key recommendations;

  • Expand and strengthen youth participation in decision-making at all levels;
  • Make meaningful youth engagement a requirement in all United Nations decision-making processes;
  • Support the establishment of a standing United Nations Youth Townhall and an integrated program from the United Nations system to facilitate greater diversity, representativeness, and preparedness in youth participation.

The document further defines meaningful youth engagement and shares examples of initiatives undertaken to promote youth engagement at the global and national levels. There is progress in youth engagement particularly in the language as seen in this document. There are lots of recommendations and examples to build from. 

My key appreciation points from this policy were;

  • Language on youth engagement has evolved from mere participation to influence and impact their inputs to the outcomes of decision-making processes
  • Recommendation to Member States to make youth participation a Requirement in UN Decision making spaces
  • Resourcing of youth participation especially funding the participation of youth from the Geopolitical South.

In the framework of the YPS agenda, peace is more than just the absence of war, if anything achieving the sustainable development goals is what will lead us to a peaceful society. Even as I applaud these recommendations, I would like for all of us to think critically about how these recommendations look in practice. 

When We Think of Peace;

We must ask which young people make it to these peace processes and decision-making spaces. Who has the access, tools, and resources to participate especially globally…and how do we ensure that those left out have their agency and needs incorporated?

What does resourcing look like? Many young activists work precarious jobs or run their organizations on a voluntary basis. If we genuinely value youth expertise, why can’t we move beyond resourcing for participation i.e. travel to resourcing for meaningful engagement i.e. compensating young people for their time?

Are diversity and inclusion enough? What about the ways intersecting axes such as class, ability, race, and ethnicity affect youth participation in decision-making? It is one thing to say, ‘Every young person is welcome here,’ and a totally different thing to say, ‘We designed this space with you(minoritized youth groups) in mind. 

What does the institutionalization of youth engagement mean when institutions are failing? Institutionalizing youth engagement at the national level through established national youth bodies threatens the civic space for certain youth groups as these national youth councils, because are funded by gov’t may be an extension of the state and institutionalized violence. How can we go beyond institutionalization to expanding the space for youth groups in their diversity from the grassroots, to movements and having avenues for their inputs to feed into national and global processes? 

Finally, what  I would have loved to see highlighted more strongly is the value of technology in enhancing youth engagement. We will never get every young person, even activists to travel to New York or Geneva, for example, even with more resourcing. Therefore, how do we decentralize decision-making, and leverage digital technologies to have more young people engaging, but even so how do we think of access, security, and cost of technologies when we think of increasing youth participation? and ultimately making this meaningful to decision-making.

Overall, I believe that there are great recommendations we can work with, and hoping that Member States take their mandate seriously, and walk the talk.

Have you read the Secretary General’s Our Common Agenda Policy Brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement in PolicyMaking and Decision-making Processes?  Share with us your thoughts in the comment section


#ThinkPeace is an initiative by ISIRIKA aimed at providing thought leadership on peace and security and provoking peace practitioners, particularly young peacebuilders to delve deeply into different social issues through simple think-pieces published every week.



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