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Why NUS' SDG Teach-in is crucial for students' empowerment

Keya Khandaker from youth activist group Accountability Advocates tells us why they are supporting the SDG Teach-in.

The Accountability Advocates' ethos is that young people should be at the forefront of driving meaningful change and that, as global citizens, young people can take on the responsibility to act upon the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are excited about the potential of NUS' SDG Teach-in - during the week of 19-23 February 2018 - to start the conversation about the role of students and teachers in bringing about sustainability and social change.

The Accountability Advocates project began in 2015 and was founded by Restless Development in coalition with other youth advocates from Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Ghana, and Uganda. We are a group of young people working on the implementation of the SDGs in the UK, showing how young people have the power to hold the UK government accountable for the promises made with the adoption of the SDGs in September 2015. We aim to empower young people with the knowledge, skills and networks needed to analyse and generate data to track progress towards the SDGs.

We hold workshops to train young people to show that, despite a lack of experience in activism or international development, collecting data to hold the government accountable to the SDGs is accessible for everyone! Our research focuses on SDG targets and indicators which address issues of sexual and reproductive health (with a focus on comprehensive education), Female Genital Mutliation (FGM), and gender-based violence in the UK. For example, we have collected data on young people�s experiences of sex education in the UK, and have used this information to report on how the UK government can use young people�s recommendation in their recent sex education legislation change.

We are keen to spread the word about the SDGs, their relevance to the UK, and to show that they are something we can all advocate for, regardless of our educational background or work sector. The SDG Teach-in has the potential to demonstrate that the SDGs can apply to any and all courses in further and higher education - from scientific research, to developing sustainable industries, to ending corruption in legal systems. A key aspect of the SDGs is to �leave no one behind�, and so it is imperative that teaching and advocacy on the SDG agenda includes the experiences and needs of the most marginalised people. This can pave the way for students to think about the impact their education and future careers can have in ending poverty, reducing economic inequalities, or promoting environmental sustainability.

We hope that students can feel inspired by the SDGs to get involved in lobbying the UK government to do more towards the goals or targets which they are passionate about or studying. They can use our online accountability toolkit for an accessible step-by-step guide to formulate an advocacy ask on the SDGs, researching data on an issue, and getting in contact with relevant political decision-makers. Student activist societies can use the SDGs to advocate for greater sustainability within their curriculum, university or college, or local community. These actions can ensure that the SDGs are more effectively monitored and bring an emphasis on the political issues which disproportionately affect young people. Other ways students and teachers can support the SDGs within their universities and colleges is to call for a Responsible Futures accreditation or to encourage students to sign-up to Dissertations for Good � a free service run by NUS which matches students to organisations (NGOs, charities, and businesses) to complete shared research on social, environmental, or economic sustainability.

The SDG Teach-In is crucial in creating a generation of students who can address local and global issues through their higher education learning. By incorporating sustainability and social change within existing modules, students can enjoy an education which provides them with the knowledge, skills, and attributes to create a more just and sustainable future.

Get involved, and pledge to support the #SDGTeachIn!