SINGAPORE - In March, student Shyna Zhuoying Gunalan launched the Singapore chapter of global activist organisation Dear Asian Youth. Now, barely 10 months later, she and the 15 other members are hosting a summit to discuss global issues like disease outbreaks and refugee crises.
Close to 100 students from Singapore and countries like Thailand and the United States are attending the inaugural online Global Youth Leaders Summit.
From Wednesday (Dec 1) to Friday, students will role play as authorities and other groups tackling problems such as Yemen's cholera outbreak, in order to get a deeper understanding of decision-making processes in crises.
Hwa Chong Institution student Shyna, 17, who is the secretary general of the summit, told The Straits Times that she opened the Singapore chapter after being inspired by Dear Asian Youth's activist work on Instagram.
The group was founded in the US in 2020 and seeks to represent, educate and engage young people on social issues, especially those relating to Asian communities, its website said.
The Singapore chapter comprises 16 members from schools like Hwa Chong, Raffles Institution and Singapore Polytechnic.
Deputy secretary general of academics at the summit Lucas Liu, 16, who is from Hwa Chong, told ST that one of the event's goals is to get students to be more interested in global issues by framing them in a fun and engaging way.
He added: "We hope the delegates can get together and think of solutions to problems that we are facing today, like how to deal with a pandemic, and to really engage on a deeper level."
Senior Minister of State for National Development and Foreign Affairs Sim Ann spoke at the opening of the summit at the National University of Singapore on Wednesday.
She noted problems faced by young people today, such as mental health issues amid the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.
Ms Sim held a question and answer session, where she gave her thoughts on topics like youth activism, cancel culture, Singapore's response to the climate crisis, and involvement in politics as a woman.
In response to a question on the role of youth activism in Singapore, she said young people play an important role in the process of moving society forward when they provide new and daring ideas, and they should be encouraged to speak up.
She added: "Youth can be disruptive and the rest of society needs to find a way to encourage and also accommodate them and their ideas."