Young Leaders Pioneering Initiatives for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

May 17, 2024
Group photo of the young people featured in the article

It is crucial to value the opinions and experiences of people from diverse backgrounds without any discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation to build an inclusive society. However, in many parts of the Asia-Pacific region, young advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI+) rights face challenges, such as discrimination, marginalization, poverty, violence, imprisonment, and inadequate legal protection. These issues can lead to workplace biases and limited healthcare access.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is dedicated to the principle of leaving no one behind, striving to eliminate discrimination and promote inclusion worldwide. Through collaborative efforts with diverse partners within and beyond the UN, UNDP works to repeal discriminatory laws, safeguard human rights, and foster social inclusion for LGBTI+ individuals. 

To mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), we are celebrating the remarkable journeys of young leaders who have collaborated with us and our partners through various initiatives to promote climate action, entrepreneurship, and healthcare advocacy within the LGBTI+ community.

Photo of Jose B. Baltero III's Vision for Inclusive Climate Action

Jose B. Baltero III (They/Them) champions sustainability, LGBTI+ inclusion, and environmental conservation. Recognized as a Dungog Lunhaw 2020 Award Winner, Jose's journey into climate action began with a deep connection to nature and a strong sense of duty to preserve the environment for future generations. Jose inspires youth to take action against climate change and promote sustainable practices through awareness campaigns and collaborative projects in groups such as the Philippine Youth Action for Sustainable Development (PYASD). 

"I believe that inclusive and equitable futures for young LGBTI+ individuals within the climate action movement are grounded in the principles of intersectionality, diversity, and empowerment."

Despite facing discrimination within environmental spaces where discussions of LGBTI+ issues are often ignored or dismissed as irrelevant to the broader climate movement, Jose's determination to amplify the voices of queer individuals and advocate for their inclusion in climate action initiatives has only grown stronger.

Jose is dedicated to fostering an inclusive culture within PYASD, ensuring that all young people feel empowered to contribute regardless of their background. They prioritize education and awareness initiatives that address social and environmental justice intersections, promoting diversity and empathy among young people.

Additionally, Jose creates opportunities for marginalized youth, including LGBTI+ individuals, through scholarships and partnerships. They advocate for policies that promote equality and inclusivity in sustainable development, emphasizing gender-responsive and LGBTI+-inclusive approaches to environmental policies and initiatives.

“Ultimately, my vision is one of empowerment, where young LGBTI+ individuals are not only recognized as agents of change but are actively engaged in shaping the future of our planet. By embracing diversity and inclusion, we can build a more just and sustainable world for generations to come, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive in harmony with nature.”

Through their leadership roles and experiences, Jose envisions a future where LGBTI+ youth are recognized as vital stakeholders in the fight against climate change and where diversity and inclusion are embraced at every level of environmental activism.

Photo of Panod Srinual's Journey in Inclusive Entrepreneurship

Panod Srinual (She/Her) emerges as a trailblazer in entrepreneurship and LGBTI+ advocacy. As the Founder of GendersMatter, which leverages media platforms to shed light on intersectionality and gender issues and to promote gender equality and inclusivity in Thailand, Panod is dedicated to creating economic opportunities and empowering gender-diverse youth.

“Being an entrepreneur with a transgender identity gives me hope to thrive economically in the industry. I wholeheartedly recommend entrepreneurship to gender-diverse youth who are considering it, as I believe it is one of the best ways to grow professionally.”

Panod's journey into entrepreneurship was fueled by a desire to challenge societal norms and create positive change for the LGBTI+ community. Despite facing skepticism and discrimination, Panod's belief in the power of entrepreneurship to drive social change remains unwavering.

“What youth-led social enterprises can start with to combat gender-based discrimination is to raise awareness through incorporating LGBTI+ inclusive policies in any action possible. For instance, one of the most common problems people with gender diversity face is unemployment due to their gender identity. It would be much better if all youth-led social enterprises considered DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) policies in their employment process so that no one, especially gender-diverse people, will be left behind.”

Through GendersMatter, Panod promotes gender equality and LGBTI+ inclusion by fostering inclusive entrepreneurial spaces. Her message of self-acceptance and living authentically inspires LGBTI+ youth to pursue their passions and defy societal norms.

Photo of Amber Jones's Quest for Queer Healthcare

Amber Jones (She/Her) is at the forefront of changing healthcare for the LGBTI+ community. As the CEO and Founder of PEERS, a community-driven social enterprise in Auckland, New Zealand, Amber is on a mission to create safe and affirming spaces for queer individuals seeking healthcare services.

Amber's journey into healthcare advocacy was shaped by personal experiences of discrimination and marginalization within the healthcare system. Determined to create a change, she founded PEERS to address the unique healthcare needs of the LGBTI+ community.

“Living authentically as a queer person was a difficult process for me. When I co-founded PEERS with Nat Young, I was still closeted, but now I know it's worth it. As a woman working in queer healthcare, I've faced disregard and negative perceptions. Many people doubted the validity of PEERS, dismissing it as an 'internet fad.' I often had to provide justifications before getting others to care about my work. Initially, this was upsetting, but I've learned to face these challenges and am now focused on educating those around me.”

Through PEERS, she envisions a future where all communities feel valued and cared for, free from discrimination and stigma.

“We want our communities to feel safe and cared for. At PEERS, we work with healthcare practitioners to achieve this by increasing visibility and providing specialized education and consultation. By improving knowledge and care standards among healthcare providers, we aim to ensure that queer individuals receive the understanding and support they need. Better healthcare for the queer community can lead to improved health outcomes and help reduce other negative impacts, such as limited access to education.”

Amber's impact through PEERS demonstrates the potential of innovative solutions and community activism to create an inclusive and equitable future.  

Photo of Mason Viet Trinh's Commitment to Mental Health Equity

Mason Viet Trinh (He/Him/His) advocates for mental health equity and LGBTI+ rights in the Asia Pacific region. As the Director of Programs at Lighthouse Social Enterprise, he leads initiatives on HIV, mental health, youth engagement, and advocacy. He also serves as Chair of the LGBTI+ Mental Health Network in Viet Nam (an initiative led by Lighthouse Social Enterprise). Mason's dedication to his work has earned him significant recognition, including roles such as Youth Advisor for the Being initiative and Fellow of the Advancing Implementation Research Capacity program.

“My hope for LGBTI+ health equity remains rooted in how mental health is taken seriously in the years to come. Mental health has long been thrown around as a buzzword in LGBTI+ rights spaces. It’s vital for stakeholders and activists to join hands in taking more meaningful actions. I am committed to collaborating with other champions  in promoting the buy-ins of high-level stakeholders and advancing high coverage of mental health in queer and trans-related legislation.”

Mason also advocates for social enterprises to fund non-profit initiatives through profitable activities. By strategically leveraging margins of profit, he believes LGBTI+ leaders can reduce dependency on traditional funding sources and become their own investors, driving inclusive projects forward. He also identifies division within the LGBTI+ movement as a critical issue, stressing the importance of intersectional approaches to protect queer and trans individuals from discrimination.

"We have seen victories for many queer rights causes, such as equal marriage or trans rights. Yet, as more sub-communities enjoy improved representation and inclusion, others feel even more lonely. There are times when certain advocacy groups may feel like they need to compete with one another for acknowledgment. I would like to invite us all to look at this issue more thoroughly."

Mason also acknowledges the significant impact of mentorship, which helped him improve his skills in strategic planning, adapting, and utilizing innovation pipelines to deliver strong and purposeful LGBTI+ initiatives. 

As we commemorate IDAHOBIT, let us draw inspiration from the stories of Jose, Panod, Amber, and Mason. Their journeys remind us of the importance of grit, innovation, and solidarity in paving the way for a more inclusive future. 


Climate advocate and Vice-President of the Philippine Youth Action for Sustainable Development, Inc. Jose Baltero III connected with YECAP, convened by UNDP and partners, through Youth Voices Count. Young Social Entrepreneurs Panod Srinual, Founder of GendersMatter, and Amber Jones, CEO and Co-Founder of PEERS, are alumni of the Youth Co:Lab initiative, co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation. Mason Viet Trinh, Director of Programs, Lighthouse Enterprise, has collaborated with the UNDP HIV and Health Group of UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub and UNDP Viet Nam through numerous initiatives focused on equitable health services for LGBTI+ persons and ensuring the rights of key populations across multiple development dimensions.