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Giving young people a stronger voice on important issues

Hasna Syed about to enter Convocation Hall on June 2 (Photo by Ken Jones)

While doing various fundraising events for a series of global natural disasters Hasna Syed, 22, came to the realization that many of her fellow students had a deep desire to help out.

“There’s so much talent and passion among young people, but often those voices are muffled on important issues of global and even local significance,” she says.

“We wanted to create a community that gave youth leadership opportunities but also a bigger voice on important issues.”

So Syed, her sisters and fellow U of T Scarborough students Sarah and Hana, along with brother Bilal, created Global Youth Impact to do just that.

The NGO and student group quickly earned a reputation on campus for raising awareness about important global issues, social advocacy work, running workshops and community engagement projects. The organization is also growing and is eyeing expansion to other Canadian university campuses this fall.  

Hasna and her siblings have also been singing together for most of their life. What started out as a hobby soon transformed into a means to help others. They’ve given performances in front of City Hall, the Canadian Labour Congress and also performed for the Music Against Child Labour initiative.

Their group, DEYSofficial, wrote a song for the 2015 Pan Am & Parapan Am Games in Toronto, but it was their song Raise Our Voices that garnered a lot of attention after it was featured in a United Nations campaign against child labour

They were also invited to attend the United Nations Youth Assembly in 2015 that took place at the U.N. headquarters in New York. The summit focused on giving youth from around the world a voice on issues surrounding sustainable development including the global economy, environment and energy policy.

“It was a tremendous privilege to be invited and to be the first U of T student delegation selected to take part in the assembly,” says Syed. “It was such a unique experience having all of these young voices at the table talking about issues that will be important to us in the future.”  

Syed will cross the stage at Convocation Hall on June 2 to receive her degree in Political Science and Women & Gender Studies. In doing so she will join 13,500 other U of T students during convocation ceremonies that run from May 31 until June 16.

She will be joined by her siblings and parents, who she counts as a major influence on her life and commitment to community work.

“My parents are incredibly selfless. Not only did they work and raise four children, they devoted so much of their spare time helping others.”.

During her time as an undergrad Syed also served as president and held various executive positions with the U of T Scarborough Political Science Students Association. That passion for political science and human rights will follow her to the London School of Economics and Political Science this fall where she will begin a Master’s in Human Rights – a perfect fit for someone who has dedicated much of her life so far to giving others a voice.

“I’ve always wanted to be in a position where I can help give a voice to those who are ignored and neglected,” she says.

“If I can help lift people up by making sure they are treated fairly, equitably and have access to justice, I will be satisfied with that.” 


© University of Toronto Scarborough