Following the launch of Unilever’s Heroes for Change programme on 6 June, Unilever CEO Paul Polman today championed the role of Kenyan youths in creating positive social change and a brighter future for Africa. Speaking to an audience of 400 students during a special guest lecture at the University of Nairobi, he highlighted the importance of millennials as change-makers and future leaders in a digital age.
The role of youth in the future of Kenya was actively discussed during a panel session with representatives from Safaricom, Sightsavers, the United Nations, AMREF Health Africa and the University of Nairobi. With 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world – and the current trend indicates that this figure is set to double by 2045. The high energy and creativity embodied by the continent’s growing and vibrant youth population positions them as a force for good to effect positive change in their community.
Unilever’s Heroes for Change programme, a social mobilisation volunteer initiative anchored in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, empowers young people to take an active role in improving health and wellbeing in their community, with the goal of reaching 10 million Kenyans by 2020. The programme offers young people a platform to engage directly with their communities to play an active role in Kenya’s future, encouraging them to think and develop their own ideas and approaches to solving social challenges.
“While Unilever is making progress through our social mission programmes, we cannot do it alone. We need to harness the energy and commitment of young people to lead us all towards a brighter future. I have no doubt that many of tomorrow’s world leaders will come from Africa’s young and vibrant population,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.
“Research shows that 84% of millennials consider it their duty to make the world a better place. With their willingness to engage and connect with others, both offline and online, millennials have both the characteristics of future leaders and the engine to make a positive impact on the world,” he continued.
Built with digitally-savvy millennials in mind, the Heroes for Change platform offers online training programmes designed to equip young people remotely with the skills and knowledge they need to go out in their communities and make an impact. Following a series of online tutorials, student volunteers can teach their communities one of five Unilever social mission programmes – Lifebuoy School of 5; Super School of 5; Neonatal Mothers’ Programme; Blue Band Good Breakfast Programme; and Pepsodent Brush Day & Night School Programme.
During the session, Unilever also officially launched the Heroes for Change Seed Fund for the University of Nairobi. The €10K one-off fund will be awarded to an individual or group of students from the University who come up with an innovative solution to improve the lives of their local communities, addressing at least one of the health and wellbeing issues highlighted in Unilever’s social mission programmes:
1. Lifebuoy School of 5 – Motivates students to practice hand washing with soap during the 5 key occasions.
2.Lifebuoy Super School of 5 – Encourages students to practice hand and face washing and is part of the Kenya Trachoma Elimination programme in partnership with Sightsavers, and supported by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.
3. Lifebuoy Neonatal Mothers’ Programme – Promotes maternal and new-born health and hygiene community-based high-impact interventions in partnership with AMREF & the National and County Government of Migori and in collaboration with UNFPA.
4.Blue Band Good Breakfast Challenge – Educates students on the importance of eating a daily nutritious breakfast, which is linked to better school performance.
5. Pepsodent Brush Day & Night School Programme – Helps inculcate oral hygiene habits among young children and teaches them the importance of brushing twice a day.
Applications for Unilever’s Heroes for Change Seed Fund are open from today. Interested applicants are invited to find out more at www.facebook.com/heroesforchangekenya.