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As part of sensitising and promoting a better understanding of sustainability and climate action among young people, the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) and YELL hosted a series of locally-based environment sharing sessions for young people on May 19th, 2024 at the ECER SDG Summit 2024. There were 44 participants in total, with 35 women and 9 men. All participants were students of the Bachelor of Social Work programme in UniSZA.

The YELL for Local Action Workshop

The YELL for Local Action workshop is aligned with the Summit’s theme of “SDG’s Local Action for Inclusive, Sustainable and Resilient Malaysia” by providing youth participants with a platform to identify and discuss key environmental issues in their local communities. With a focus on the People and Planet aspects of the Summit, this workshop aimed to build capacity, empower strategic communications regarding environmental issues, and encourage collaborative community projects and advocacy led by young people. The interactive workshop also showcased environmental conservation and sustainability efforts by several YELL network partners based in Terengganu, with opportunities for participants to volunteer in their initiatives.

The workshop started with the introduction of YELL, followed by the first sharing session led by the Ecoswed Initiative team (a project under Akademi Impact 2022: Earth Champion Edition, supported by YELL). This session zoomed in on the role of youth in championing nature and culture conservation. Specifically, the focus was on community-based ecotourism in Setiu, Terengganu. The team shared some impactful work, from establishing a nature school to nurturing a teaching academy, all aimed at empowering local communities and young minds in environmental education. It was a well curated session, offering a comprehensive view on environmental teaching methods.

The second session was hosted by Uni Parcel Station (UniPS), a sustainable packaging project based in UniSZA under the SERY 2023 programme, also supported by YELL. Participants were familiar with this group as they are based within the university as a courier service. UniPS shared the challenges of a courier service where students struggle with lost parcels within the university and a lack of sustainable parcel packaging disposal system. UniPS fills this gap by receiving incoming parcels and sending outgoing parcels for UniSZA’s students, with an avenue to dispose parcel packaging for recycling facilitated by UniPS. The impact of this service was shared: over 7,000 UniSZA students have used UniPS’ service through its official Telegram channel. Among UniPS’ 30 staff members, there’s a significant presence from underprivileged backgrounds. It’s a reflection to UniPS’ mission – not merely providing a service, but doing so with a strong sense of social responsibility. Here, UniPS stands as an example of how local action can pave the way for sustainability and uplift communities. The session ended with a Q&A open to participants, as well as a quiz testing their knowledge of sustainability and information shared throughout the session.

The YELL team led a thought-provoking advocacy session centered on distinguishing between meaningful engagement and tokenism, as well as media literacy skills. The objective was to ensure participants understood the implications of meaningful participation versus tokenism. What stood out was the unanimous “no” from participants when asked if they were familiar with the concept of tokenism beforehand, as it was not a common phrase used in Bahasa Malaysia. To reinforce these concepts, the session included an interactive activity where participants were presented with various scenarios. They were tasked with analysing these scenarios to determine whether the opportunities depicted fell under meaningful engagement or tokenism. The media literacy component focused on evaluating the credibility of information in desktop research. The YELL team provided examples of both credible and non-credible sources, guiding participants on how to discern the reliability of information. This interactive part of the session aimed to equip participants with critical thinking skills essential for identifying trusted resources in today’s digital age. Participants had the opportunity to present a local advocacy issue within their communities at the end of the session.

The YELL team brought in the expertise of the Sea Turtle Research Unit (SEATRU) from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu to shed light on turtle conservation. Dr. Uzair Rusli, leading the Field Research Laboratory at SEATRU, shared about their work at Chagar Hutang, a critical site for sea turtle conservation. Here, SEATRU’s work span from studying nesting patterns and hatchling survival to implementing crucial conservation measures. Dr. Uzair detailed the multidisciplinary approach SEATRU employs, including research initiatives, conservation efforts, community involvement, and educational programmes. SEATRU conducts scientific research to better understand sea turtle biology, ecology, and behavior, while also working closely with local communities and stakeholders to raise awareness and implement conservation measures. As the session drew to a close, Dr. Uzair extended an invitation to the participants, urging them to join SEATRU in their conservation efforts firsthand to understand the transformative impact of hands-on involvement in realising sustainable development goals.

The closing session, led by the Jejak Warisan team that was also a part of Akademi Impact 2022, explored the intersection of climate adaptation, cultural heritage, and human-nature interaction in Kampung Losong. Their mission aligns with local youths’ effort to heighten climate awareness through heritage and culture. Through a detailed presentation, Aqish and Fatin showcased their project’s journey, spotlighting documentation on traditional houses, fisheries, and heritage cuisine. Participants were then invited to partake in an interactive activity, crafting miniature kampung houses from ice cream sticks, followed by a presentation of their designs. Wrapping up, the team explained climate adaptation features specific to Terengganu’s kampung houses and promoted the Jejak Warisan booklet.