A Somali-American from Minnesota will speak on behalf of youth at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York and other events.
Munira Khalif, who will be a junior this fall at Harvard University, was chosen from 350 applicants as the 2017-2018 U.S. Youth Observer to the U.N.
“When you are the youngest person in the room, you think, maybe my voice is not important,'” Khalif told VOA. “I think sometimes we limit ourselves, and there’s a challenge within that. But I think [it’s about] really reminding yourself that your voice matters.”
Khalif is the U.N.’s sixth U.S. Youth Observer, a program organized in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations Association of the USA.
This is not Khalif’s first time in the spotlight. In high school, she co-founded a nonprofit, “Lighting the Way,” that advocates for girls’ education in East Africa. She was also an adviser to the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up initiative.
As a senior in high school, Khalif made national headlines when she was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools.
“I was a really active young person, and I continue to be someone who is really engaged and involved. It was a tremendous privilege, but I feel like it wasn’t just for me. I think it was for the whole Somali community, because I really think it takes a village. There were so many people who had supported me along my journey,” she said.
Khalif will serve as Youth Observer for one year, traveling throughout the country and internationally to speak with young people and listen to their concerns.
“Young people like Munira are a driving force for positive change in their communities and the world,” said UNA-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley. “We are delighted for Munira to share her experiences and collaborate with her peers worldwide to bring young people’s perspective[s] to the world’s most significant global forum.”
Khalif said she also wants to encourage young Americans to look beyond their borders and become aware of global issues. “What I find inspiration in is other young people. There are other young people all around the world who are doing really amazing things in shaping our world and trying to create positive change,” she said.
She is majoring in economics and minoring in government at Harvard and believes her generation is eager to make changes.
“We are the largest generation of young people in history. There is really power in our numbers, and, in order to be able to solve these very complex issues at the United Nations, we need a diversity of voices,” she said. “Reminding yourself that my voice is not only powerful but it is important and necessary to make a better world.”