Written by: Fathimath Yumnu Shareef & Raushan Ali Firaq - UNDP Maldives
For People – Making the World a Better Place for All
Who are we?
We are the women and the men. The young and the old. The abled and the disabled. The local and the migrants. The rural and the urban. The rich and the poor.
Now let us remove the labels and try again.
Who are we? We are human beings.
Sadly, we are seemingly living in a world where more value is placed on the labels that divide us rather than the humanity that unites us. Often, we can barely pronounce our names, before the world starts dictating our life choices, opportunities and experiences based on the labels they create.
Women are overburdened with the societal expectations to juggle career, care work and household work while also being deprived of the feeling of safety in their homes, community and in workplace. Women’s participation remains limited in the economy and labor force and are also under-represented in decision-making processes highly reducing the chance of an equal world.
Men are faced with the pressure of being the primary bread winners and provide for their families. They are discouraged to show emotions and seek support as it does not align with the societies perception of what a man should be.
Persons with Disabilities are marginalized with limited accessibility to basic information and services and continue to face significant barriers to living independently due to limited opportunity and insufficient infrastructure to cater to their specific needs.
Migrant workers are subjected to range of entrenched abuses from society and their employers, including but not limited to unsafe living and working conditions, and excessive work demands.
Youth are feeling increasingly stressed, helpless, and disengaged in the face of inadequate opportunities with many having to struggle with their behaviors around substance use and turning to a life of crime.
The city dwellers work multiple jobs trying to make ends meet. Island residents struggle to access basic services such as quality education and health facilities.
At every corner of the society, we see gloomy faces exhausted by the burdens that they carry.
The silence is deafening. The inaction is injustice.
We must do better. We deserve better.
Mariyam Shiba too believed that we, the people deserved better and already had her own ideas to make the world a better place. However, it was upon joining Miyaheli 2017 she got the opportunity to turn her ideas of easily accessible better mental health support into reality.
“Miyaheli helped fine tune a very rough idea I had and made it more realistic and attainable,” explained Shiba. “Getting started was challenging, but it was a great experience and has paved the way for so many opportunities. Over the past two years we’ve built on the foundation that Miyaheli helped develop, and I’m hopeful that the path we are on will impact others in a meaningful way.”
Blue Hearts, one of the winning ideas of Miyaheli 2017 which started as a rough idea, at present is a non-profit NGO raising awareness about mental health; working to normalize open discussions about mental health issues and promote help-seeking behaviors among the public. The need for such initiatives was reemphasized with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Blue Hearts continued to provide free chat-based support services through their website to many seeking psychosocial support at the time.
Shiba and her team at Blue Hearts continue their efforts to make the world a better place; they are presently working on launching a mobile application that will include new services such as online video counseling, guided self-care techniques, interactive features, and additional resources to help young people in the Maldives.
For Planet – Winning the Race against Climate Change
The race is on. The forecast is gloomy.
Sea levels are rising.
Islands are facing issues of udha (tidal swells) at an unprecedented rate.
Communities are being forced out of their own homes and islands.
Freshwater is slowly becoming a scarce with outer islands already experience drinking water shortage.
Dengue Fever. Malaria and other vector borne diseases are becoming more and more common with the changes in temperature and rainfall.
Food and economic security are threatened as we are unable to rely on traditional sources of income such as fishing.
Coral reefs and underwater life are dying as the ocean temperatures raise, slowly stripping off the beauty Maldives is known for.
For small island nations such as Maldives, winning the race against climate change is no longer a choice, but a necessity for future existence.
“Sometimes when I think about what is coming, I can’t sleep at night,” explained Ahmed Niyaz, one of the winners of Miyaheli 2020 as he stressed on the need for immediate action. As Niyaz sees it, the climate crisis is not much different from the COVID-19 pandemic as both required collaborated efforts to find solutions to survive.
“We knew we were in a health crisis due to COVID. That there was no time to be selfish. Everyone was giving their all to solve our collective problem. I have taken that feeling forward with me and it has been a key reason why we have the current team. We all fully embrace that we are in a climate crisis. And that we will be for the rest of our lives.”
Niyaz joined the first ever virtual Miyaheli with hopes of making a difference. His determination to fight against both the climate crisis and the pandemic led to ’Binheyo‘ – an urban farming project designed to address the rapid income loss brought about by the pandemic while also positively contributing to the environment.
With the goal of making urban farming easy and convenient, Binheyo is currently looking for interested individuals to grow microgreens in the congested capital, utilizing equipment and expertise from the team.
The microgreens will then be bought back from the individuals, giving them a chance to earn an income and be part of producing fresh, healthy, and organic produce, which will then be sold – at affordable prices – to local cafés within a business-to-business model. It is businesses such as these that endeavor to create the social good that Miyaheli aims to foster.
Niyaz remains optimistic about the strengths of young people, when given the chance, opportunities and enabling environments to explore and fulfill their true potential as he proved during his Miyaheli journey. “We, the youth, demand to be enabled in meaningful ways to leapfrog over the challenges that exist. Give us the chance, and we will do it.”
For Prosperity – Doing Good Sustainably
COVID-19 pandemic did a complete 360 on our lives.
Economy was on the brink of collapse. Entire industries came to a halt. Businesses shut down.
Any progress on decent work was reversed. Stories of mistreatment of workers became daily news. Salaries were reduced. Benefits were withheld. More and more people lost their jobs and source of income.
Families were forced to return back to the very same islands they left in the hopes of a dignified life with access to quality services.
Corruption, injustice, unequal opportunity, and other social ills only added to the gloom, widening the gap between rich and the poor, the abled and the disabled, the men and the women and more.
With the bad also came the good. People began exploring new interests and hobbies. Some cooked and baked. Some took up gardening. Others pursued their passion for art. While for many it was merely just a way of passing time, for others it turned into an opportunity to earn some extra income, and invest in exciting new future prospects.
Small startups began popping up here and there. Home businesses started to bloom with many led by women. It was a refreshing change to see, especially for Yoosuf who for long had continued to dedicate his time and efforts to help small businesses with his printing shop.
Yoosuf – one of the first Miyaheli winners – joined the social innovation camp with the goal of helping a group of women he met in Haa Dhaalu Atoll Nolhivaram island, who led a small business selling homemade food items. The women found it difficult to adhere to the new regulations introduced in 2016 which mandated all homemade food items to be labelled with ingredients and date of expiry in a way that did not negatively affect their business.
His idea of printing and designing labels for free for these women, allowed them to explore additional streams of revenue through making their products accessible among the stacked products within the island shops.
“When I first had the idea, I did not think about how I would continue to print free labels in a sustainable manner. It was after sharing with the mentors during Miyaheli, I got ideas on how to make it sustainable, profitable and ensure longevity of the project,” Yoosuf shared his experience at Miyaheli. He has continued to keep his ‘Salhi Halleh’ going since 2017 and has the honor of being the longest-running Miyaheli winning project.
“If you have a good idea, Miyaheli will help you with the practical knowledge. The team will help you to make your ideas a reality and will hold your hand throughout. Even when I was not so sure about it, they encouraged me to do it. Young people with good ideas should apply and go forward with this. I still think about the camp and the experience,” recounts Yoosuf, encouraging young people with the drive for change to apply to the camp.
The stories of Shiba, Niyaz and Yoosuf are just few examples of how youth with the right opportunity and guidance can make a difference and inspire change.
Do you have a great idea as well? Here’s a chance to turn it into reality!
Miyaheli – Social Innovation Camp is back with a focus on innovation for People, Planet and Prosperity. Miyaheli aspires to create change from the grassroots up allowing individuals to create the change they seek for themselves.
More about Miyaheli 2021, and to apply click here
‘Miyaheli’ is a social innovation camp hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Ooredoo Maldives since 2016, with the support of the Government of Australia and in collaboration with several partners with the aim to empower young individuals to become change-makers. The series brings together youth, ideas, mentors and digital and nondigital tools to create innovations on pressing social issues in Maldivian society through social entrepreneurship. Close to 200 youth from across the country have been engaged since 2016.