UNICEF 2021 Youth Advocate and TIME Kid of the Year: Every child is a change-maker

DUBAI, 20 November 2021 – Adults need to recognise the potential of children, because every child has a change-maker in them that just needs to be fostered and cultivated, said Gitanjali Rao, the first ever TIME Kid of the Year and UNICEF Youth Advocate for 2021.

Rao, who turned 16 on Friday, was speaking at Expo 2020’s celebration of World Children’s Day, organised in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Community Development and UNICEF, where she was also announced as a UNICEF Youth Advocate.

A scientist who strives to achieve a future where each and every student has access to an innovation education, irrespective of age, race, gender or other demographic, she said: “The really great thing about children is that we dream big and we can make those dreams a reality… My biggest message to children around the world is that self-doubt is your biggest enemy. Don’t be afraid of failure, because once you make that jump, then you can tackle the world’s problems. And to adults, my message is that belief means more than you think it does.

رسالة لمخترعة صغيرة من إكسبو 2020 دبي: لا تخافوا من الفشل وتغلبوا على الخوف لتحقيق طموحاتكم

“Every student out there has a change-maker in their brains. It just needs to be fostered and supported, and you – the parents – can help with that.”

Rao, who counts her parents as her biggest inspiration for teaching her to stand up for what she believes in, and cited Malala and Marie Curie as role models, explained what being a UNICEF Youth Advocate meant to her.

“I’m so beyond honoured and humbled for this opportunity. It elevates my voice so I can speak louder and have my voice heard, and at the same time solicit new innovators and new change-makers into this incredible world that is being a young advocate. When youth have their voices heard, more people are willing to adapt, change, and go towards a mission together.”

Juliette Touma, Chief, Advocacy & Communications for the Middle East & North Africa, UNICEF, said: “Everyone can play a very important role in making this world a better place for children. We should listen to and engage with young people, who bring their own perspective and vision. This thinking of ‘adults know more than kids’ – it needs to be broken.”