I started my activism at a very young age, out of the frustration of always being told that I was too young to understand the world, let alone, to make a difference. I had my first taste of volunteering at the age of seven when I joined the Scouts Movement in Brazil. From then on, I never really stopped.
At the age of 13, I started a youth-led organisation in my hometown, Santos. Our group worked to create opportunities and tools for young people to meaningfully engage in local development and decision-making processes. That included campaigning for the establishment of the Municipal Youth Council, creating a platform for young people to advise the city authorities on youth policies and programs. After the Youth Council was established, I was elected to serve in the Council for two mandates.
A few years later, at the age of 16, I had the opportunity to attend my very first global youth event in Morocco (World Youth Congress in 2003), which was a turning point for me. At the time, the youth sector in Brazil was still very new, and youth activism was considered only a hobby. At the conference, I was inspired by meeting young people who were doing amazing things to transform their communities, their countries and the world. That motivated me to go back home and work harder to increase our impact and take our projects to scale.
I started writing about youth empowerment for CAPRICHO magazine, the most prominent mainstream magazines for young people in Brazil. For six years, I had the opportunity to use this enormous platform the magazine provided to talk about youth action and highlight inspiring stories. For my work, I was recognised by ANDI (Brazilian Media Agency on Children and Youth Rights) as one of the leading Brazilian columnists challenging the stigma around youth in Brazil and influencing the increase in positive youth media coverage in 2003 and 2004.
I also joined a network of youth organisations leading the UN-initiated “Making Commitments Matter” process in Brazil. The initiative mapped, bench-marked and evaluated national youth policies at the country level. It enabled us to identify policy gaps and present a set of evidence-based policy recommendations to the Federal Government. Those recommendations included the need for more comprehensive National Youth Policies and a call for the establishment of an inter-ministerial secretariat dedicated to youth, both implemented by the government in 2005.
In 2004, I also joined the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY). I became very active in the process of recognising youth participation within the UN System and in global governance processes. My first engagement was at the UN Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD), where I joined other members of the MGCY to advocate for youth inclusion in the CSD process, which later led to championing youth participation across different UN processes.
I was one of the first official youth delegates representing Brazil at the UN Climate Change Conferences. My first COP was in Argentina in 2004 (COP10) where we were a small group of 50+ young people advocating for the recognition of youth as an official constituency of the UNFCCC process. As the years passed, the youth movement grew significantly, until it was finally established as YOUNGO and officially recognised as UNFCCC youth constituency in 2009 at COP15 in Copenhagen. I also worked for UNICEF during COP15 (in Denmark) and COP16 (in Mexico) to facilitate children’s engagement from climate vulnerable countries in the process, helping to prepare their participation and amplify their voices throughout the conference.
In 2008, at the World Urban Forum in China, I was elected to represent the Latin America and the Caribbean region in the inaugural UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board (YAB). I addition to serving in the YAB, in 2009, I was also appointed the youth representative to the oversight board managing the UN-Habitat Global Urban Youth Fund.
Since 2009, working in the United Nations, I have worked in different initiatives in over 40 countries for entities such as UNDESA, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, UNFPA and UNDP. My job titles and contracts may have changed, but they have always been about mainstreaming youth issues in policies and programmes and facilitating the establishment of permanent participation mechanisms for young people across the UN system.
These led me to be appointed the first United Nations Youth Advisor in Somalia (2015-2019). For five years, I provided technical advice to the United Nations senior leadership. I oversaw the implementation of the inter-agency portfolio of programs on youth, education, sports and culture, worth over USD$54 million in investments. While in Somalia, I had the opportunity to lead the development of the first-ever UN Youth Strategy in the country (2016-2019). I also coordinated the development of the Somali National Youth Policy and the establishment of the UN Youth Advisory Board in Somalia.
It was quite exciting to be living and working in a country like Somalia during the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015), when for the very first time the Security Council recognised the positive role of young people in peace and security. The situation in Somalia and the large youth cohort in the country gave us the opportunity (and the responsibility!) to champion the operationalisation of the youth, peace and security agenda at country-level. This meant scaling up our peacebuilding programming and the seeking ways to support and facilitate youth engagement in the peace process in Galkayo.
Apart from the UN, I had quite a few exciting jobs and experiences. From managing a global small-grants programme financing 300+ youth-led development projects worldwide, coordinating two editions of the World Youth Congress (Canada 2008 and Turkey 2010) and advising the Brazilian government on youth policies and foreign affairs.
I also co-founded other youth-led organisations in Brazil including Change Mob and Engajamundo and have served in the board of directors of major organisations such as CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and GCCA – the Global Call for Climate Action, among others.
My work has been featured in a series of media outlets including MTV, Globo, BBC, CNN, Forbes, Positive News, among others (Check out some of the features here). I have received different awards, including the Forbes Magazine “30 under 30s” as the most influential Brazilian under the age of 30 working on policy and diplomacy.
Most recently, I joined the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA) as an expert consultant. FBA is the Swedish government agency for peace and security. I’m working as part of the Youth, Peace and Security team where I support the operationalisation of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda at local, regional and global levels.