New UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders announced for 2020

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO has appointed five new members to its UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders group. They are: Anne-Sophie Page, Bella Simpson, Blair Kapa-Peters, Brodie Cross and Naheed Saeid.

New Chair

Ashlee Peacock is the group’s new Chair, taking over from Raven Maeder. As Special Advisor – Youth she will attend all National Commission meetings and provide advice to the National Commission on how to engage young people in UNESCO’s work programmes.

Anne-Sophie Pagé

Anne-Sophie Pagé is an Otago Peninsula local and has grown up sharing her back yard with penguins and sealions. Prior to commencing her Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) degree at Massey University she started her tertiary studies at Otago University with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Geography and Marine Science. Her passion in flighting climate change and preserving New Zealand’s endemic species has led to many opportunities, such as conducting climate change research on coral reefs in the Pacific as a Sir Peter Blake Ambassador, venturing south to the Sub-Antarctic Islands as an Enderby Scholar, fighting the rhino poaching crisis in South Africa and most recently working as a researcher on a penguin study in remote Patagonia.

She has represented New Zealand at global conferences and leadership events, which have included the APEC CEO Summit, Ship For World Youth Leaders and the prestigious Harvard National Model United Nations. She is currently serving a three year term on the Lower North Island Conservation Board, is the advocacy coordinator for the Manawatū Forest and Bird Branch and the acting president of the Massey University Wildlife and Conservation Club. Anne-Sophie has worked as a wildlife guide on the Otago Peninsula for the past six years along with being involved in the conservation efforts towards an abundance of New Zealand’s endemic species.

“There are two priorities in my life. The first is to foster emotional connections between individuals and our environment in the hope of developing a holistic sense of kaitiakitanga amongst us all in the face of climate change. The second is to use my knowledge as a soon to be vet to assist in mitigating New Zealand’s biodiversity crisis – to see our islands and surrounding ocean return to their once wild status.”

Bella Simpson

Bella Simpson is a young trans woman who has been out for a little over a decade. From an early age Bella has been speaking out on the rights of transgender people and LGBTI rights. Bella has been on the governance board for InsideOUT, Rainbow Youth, Out Wellington (Wellington Pride Festival) and currently sits on the Evolve board. Bella has helped organise a range of conferences and hui, including the ILGA Oceania Proud conference in 2016, several InsideOUT Shift Hui and two weeks of youth events for Wellington Pride festival in 2017, culminating in the first pride ball for LGBTI young people.

In 2016 Bella was awarded the Youth Change Maker award at the 2016 Youth Week Awards for her tireless work in the LGBTI community. In 2018 Bella was asked to speak at Government House to help open the Suffrage 125 event. In 2019 Bella was recognised for her volunteer work in the LGBTI community on New Zealand History, Women in Activism Series. These were monumental moments that highlighted the importance of Trans Women being included in feminist movements.

“My key driving force is to inspire and empower trans and gender diverse people to feel valued, inspired and empowered to be their best selves. I’m looking forward to this next step in my journey in New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO”.

Blair Kapa-Peters

Blair was raised in rural New Zealand deep in the Far North. Blair works as a Youth Navigator but her primary focus is advocacy within the community around environmental protection.

Blair has worked in Community and Environmental development since 2015 organising avian avoidance workshops, dog control strategies, recognising and preventing the spread of Kauri dieback and Kiwi Advocacy Awareness. She is passionate about the preservation of native flora and fauna and promotes her messages through Schools, Community clubs, Marae, local events and online. In 2017 Blair received the Kiwi Bank local hero award for her efforts in the environmental sector and youth work with Rangatahi.

“Find what you are passionate about and don’t give It up. It’s amazing how many opportunities arrive when you put your heart into everything you do. Having the privilege be a part of the UNESCO Aotearoa Youth leaders this term is an absolute blessing, and I can’t wait to be amongst inspiring people with a wealth of knowledge. I hope that my time can make a positive impact and I know I will definitely be bringing all my learnings home to share with my community.”

Brodie Cross

Brodie (Ngapuhi and Te Āti Awa) lives in the South Island city of Ōtautahi (Christchurch). He was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth and later Cortical Vision Impairment. Despite this, Brodie’s engaging personality has, and continues to help him, make the most of life’s opportunities. He is a student at Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu and also works in the tourism industry at the International Antarctic Centre.

Before joining the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO as a Youth Leader, Brodie was a member of the Education Minister’s Youth Advisory Group, staying that “…all students deserve a chance, no matter what their possibilities in life may be.” He has always been eager to ensure that people with additional needs are supported and listened to.

Brodie has a particular interest in foreign relations, drawing on insights from overseas as to how countries and governments respond and cater to the needs of those with impairments. Through the role of UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders, Brodie hopes to draw attention to global citizenship education and its role in addressing the needs of those persons who may need additional support to be active global citizens.

“Although Aotearoa New Zealand is a small and isolated country, I believe we have the opportunity to be world leaders in how we respond and look after people with impairments.”

Naheed Saeid

Naheed is a former Afghan refugee who arrived in New Zealand 18 years ago with her family. She is currently undertaking her final years of medicine at Otago University’s Wellington branch.

Naheed is passionate about working with refugee-background individuals to improve their well-being and integration into New Zealand society, without losing everything that makes them special. Naheed has been involved with numerous refugee organisations over the past decade. She is currently the communications and marketing manager for Empower Youth – an organisation targeted at increasing refugee youth numbers in tertiary education.

“Representation of the diverse communities and minority groups that brighten New Zealand’s social tapestry is one of my greatest passions. I have seen, time and time again, the positive effects that representation can have on, not only me, but also all the communities I identify with. I want to combine all my skills and experience with my cultural background and the unique aspects of my identity – being a refugee, Muslim woman from Afghanistan – to give our people spaces to feel heard and understood. I am so excited to work with the other UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders to tackle the issues that matter to us and our communities and can’t wait to see what this next year has in store for us!”

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