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Youth, women and oceans

Youth, women and oceans

Queen’s Young Leaders organise an international conference in Halifax, Canada

Image above: Beach clear green

Queen’s Young Leaders often find themselves moving to different countries to study, work and live. Angelique Pouponneau and Aaron Pinto were part of an organising team for a high-profile conference in Canada, illustrating the potential of the Queen's Young Leaders network.

September 2017, two Queen's Young Leaders Angelique Pouponneau and Aaron Pinto, met in New York. Both were unaware that New York would become home. In this completely new environment, the usual communities they worked in were no longer physically accessible to them.


In April 2018, Angelique was the Vice-Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council. As such, she was invited to speak about the inclusive sustainable development of the Blue Economy at a panel discussion hosted by the Canadian Government ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

At the event, the Canadian Deputy Minister, Catherine Blewett was impressed by her call to have an action group on youth, women and oceans under the Blue Charter. A conversation began on how to get more youth and women into the Blue Economy.

This would be the start of a new collaboration between the Canadian Government and a small group of young people to bring youth voices to the decision-making table.

Including youth and women

The reason the inclusion of youth and women in the Blue Economy is so important is because of the few of them exist in this space.

The Queen’s Young Leaders network was an easy and accessible space to find youth undertaking valuable work to ensure we have healthier oceans.

Nikola Simpson – a 2018 Queen’s Young Leader from Barbados – was selected among the 40 people shortlisted to be part of this roundtable. She is passionate about our oceans and has worked on sustainable fisheries management, spreading awareness on plastic pollution and sustainability.

Roundtable delegates on the pier in Halifax, Canada

Roundtable delegates on the pier in Halifax, Canada

Angelique and Aaron put together a team to bring together a Youth, Women and Oceans Roundtable Discussion to take place on the fringes of the G7 Joint Session on Oceans. This would provide policy recommendations to the Honourable Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coastguard.

Recommending policy

The roundtable took place in September 2018, in Halifax, Canada. It included youth and women from Canada, and small island developing States (SIDS), predominantly from the Commonwealth.

Its policy recommendations addressed the global threats of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear. Both of these threats continue to undermine sustainable development goals (SDGs), especially SDG 14.

The conference

It was a busy but inspiring few days in an ocean positive space with amazing diversity coming together in one room.

Scientists, members of the Prime Minister’s youth council, policy analysts, ocean startups, climate ambassadors, sustainability design and social impactors – all came. And the diversity was not only in terms of profession, but also in countries represented, in gender and age. All were here with one shared interest – our oceans.

Nikola Simpson with other delegates at Roundtable

Nikola Simpson, centre, with other delegates at the Roundtable

“I felt honoured to be among amazing youth and women especially in a world where we need to be included more in decision making,” says Nikola. “This diverse space was filled with action. And we are already following up and seeing a positive outcome, which leaves me hopeful for the future.”

The opening remarks of the roundtable resonated with Nikola, Aaron and Angela, and they thought related to what they had learned on the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme. That is, to be bold – bold in your ideas, bold in the chances that you take, bold with the people that you connect with and network with.

Nikola said, “This has also reminded me that no matter where you are living in the World, you can make things happen and still be a changemaker.”

The Queen’s Young Leaders Network

The QYL network is a community of people with the same values and passion to bring about change. It is a pool of young people with various expertise in different subject areas and sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Turtle swimming under water

Turtle swimming under water. Image credit: Belle Co

Angelique said, “The Queen’s Young Leaders network continues to provide the youth with expertise and real-life experience in bringing about positive change in their communities. This roundtable provided an additional platform to now give them the space to influence policies that would be adopted by the G7 countries – two of which are Commonwealth countries.”

Looking ahead to the future, she added, “We hope to see other Commonwealth countries – and companies that are working in Commonwealth countries – pick up on these recommendations as insights into what another set of leaders want for their world.”