Students were asked if they had a solution to a global problem, and six teams responded – but you’ll have to find out their solutions for yourself at UBC's World's Challenge Challenge finals on February 8th.
Dear global problems: meet your challengers
Six student teams have been selected to present their global solutions to a panel of judges for a chance to win $6,000. Plus, the winner will compete with schools across the world and represent UBC at the International World’s Challenge Challenge at Western University.
Rachel, like a lot of the competitors, saw the Challenge as an opportunity for her ideas to come to fruition beyond the scope of this competition: “We didn’t want to just think in hypotheticals for the sake of this challenge; we want to create something we can actually pilot.”
I sat down with each team to talk about what inspired them to tackle these large-scale issues, and how we as students, who can feel a bit intimidated by global challenges, can make a change.
World challenge: Gender equality
Nicole So, Public Policy and Global Affairs, Graduate Student | Austin Ferguson, Arts, 3rd year | Candy Tladi, Public Policy and Global Affairs, Graduate Student
With the feminist movement at the forefront of media, this team is continuing the momentum by addressing issues of gender inequality in the workplace.
Why did you choose to tackle this challenge?
A lot of us live in such a comfortable environment where we might not necessarily feel affected by these issues. Feminism isn’t just for women – because if you're going to let one group in your society not be treated with respect or dignity, what does that say about your society? - Austin
Why are you a feminist?
Personally, I was time and time again frustrated with how I saw other men treating my mother or my sister, whether it be small gestures in public or seeing my sister lose out on opportunities because she’s female, or her not feeling safe in the area she lives. Feminism is for everyone because it affects everyone. - Austin
Tackling global challenges can be intimidating. What advice do you have for students who want to make a change?
Find what intrigues you, then find an aspect of it that allows you to add your voice and impact. These kinds of opportunities allow you to bridge your classroom learning with the real world. And for the students who don’t know what they’re doing – we don’t know what we’re doing either! We stumbled into this challenge and we’d only really known each other for a few months, and we just thought this would be a great opportunity. - Nicole
This quote from Dr. Seuss’ ‘Lorax’ always resonated with me: “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It isn’t.” - Nicole
World challenge: Clean water
Rajat Jain, Environmental Engineering, Graduate student | Karan Grover, Engineering, 4th year | Jatin Maheshwary, Engineering, Graduate student
This team visited a remote Indigenous community, called the Aq’am community, to learn about their drinking water challenges. Their visit was met with a powerful response from Elder Tei: “Over the past 50 years, people like you have come and gone, but my community still doesn’t have clean drinking water.”
What inspired you to tackle this challenge?
We live in Canada, a very developed country, and everybody assumes everyone has access to clean drinking water – but that isn’t the case for a lot of small, remote, and Indigenous communities in Canada. I’m from India, and I used to think that these kinds of issues only existed in India or developing nations, but after coming here I realized how prevalent these issues were in India as well as parts of Canada. I don’t just want to limit my work to the lab but to bring it outside to a place where people can be impacted by it. - Rajat
What words do you have to share with students?
Resources and inspiration can come from unexpected times and places. I met Raj in an elevator after a networking event and we just kept in touch. I think a big challenge or idea can be less intimidating when it’s shared among people and resources. - Karan
I used to be the kind of student that didn’t care about global issues – I focused on academics or my own work. But after getting involved in this, we reached a point that made me realize that our work could be an opportunity to change lives. - Jatin
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. Form a team, work on an idea you are passionate about, and sooner or later, you will achieve success. - Rajat
Do you have any words of motivation you live by?
Personally, and I think this applies to our work too, I live by this quote from Melinda Gates: “If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped." - Rajat
World challenge: Climate change
Grace Nosek, PhD in Law | Sandeep, PhD in Forestry | George Radner, Arts, 3rd year
Climate change is an ever-looming, ever-pressing issue that we’re all aware of, but may not necessarily understand the nuances of or know how to take action. This team aims to engage and educate the public on the global challenge of climate change through positive narratives and storytelling.
Why did you choose this global challenge to tackle?
Although there is profound urgency around the topic of climate change, and there’s this picture of doom and gloom so that people can understand this urgency, there still is a lot of hope around the topic, and we want to communicate that. - Grace
It’s Canada’s young people who will disproportionately bear the burden of a dangerously warming planet. - George
How can students begin tackling world challenges like climate change?
You can’t get stuck in that kind of thinking that I’m one person and I can’t make a change. Anytime there’s been a massive social change, it's been a few people making an immense difference. - George
It’s in your hands to stop climate change and we can do it together as a community. Often these things are framed as things you can’t do or shouldn’t do but it can be a joyful way of bringing people together and building community. - Grace
World challenge: World hunger
Rachel Cheang, Arts, 1st year | Allison Gacad, Land & Food Systems, 2nd year | Renhao Wang, Computer Science, 1st year
In a series of 2013-2014 studies across Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, the prevalence of anemia was found to be almost 48.4% in refugee children 5 years and under. This team is tackling the issue of food security in displaced populations, mainly refugee camps, and focusing on creating a sustainable, long-term solution.
Why did you choose the topic of food security?
As a LFS student, and coming back from the UN Climate Change Conference, I had all these documents and literature on our role in food security on a warming planet so I knew I had to do something with it. We all come from fortunate circumstances, and with this challenge, we want to look at communities that don’t have that privilege and delve deeper into what role we can play in providing these communities access to food. - Allison
The importance isn’t just a matter of giving people food but giving the autonomy to continue having food. We wanted to emphasize the sense of ownership and autonomy among these displaced communities. - Rachel
What do you have to say to these students who are a little intimidated by these lofty challenges?
Bring global issues down to a local level. With food security, you look at university students who can’t afford groceries or the downtown eastside community in our own city. When a broad issue is localized, it makes tackling it that much more feasible. Tackling apathy is always hard. And on a selfish level, food security ultimately affects everyone. It doesn’t matter what socio-economic background you’re from, we all need to eat and we all rely on the processes of harvesting. - Rachel
World challenge: Child marriage
Ahmed Faiz Hussein, Arts, 1st year | Jovin Shumbusho, Arts,1st year | Aisha Zerbo, Science, 1st year
1 in 3 girls in the developing world is said to be married before 18 – and too often, these young women function as currency in their communities. This team chose to address the inequality issues in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically, to magnify issues of child marriage in Burkina Faso, Aisha's hometown.
What inspired you to tackle the issue?
My dad has always told me to stand up for myself and not let anyone tell me otherwise, and it made realize that a lot of girls don’t have someone in their life to tell them that. Some of these girls and brides don’t even realize the right they have to stand up. - Aisha
In today’s society, your masculinity is going to be degraded if you talk about issues affecting young girls. But more boys and men need to come out to talk about what can be done about child marriage. It’s become a taboo to talk about young girls getting married and a lot of people don’t see it or understand the magnitude of its prevalence. We have a beautiful campus, and pineapples on pizza, but we don’t have a solution to child marriage. - Ahmed
We’ve personally seen people in our own communities back home and friends affected by this issue. And this is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and to show UBC students that they have the ability to make a change. - Jovin
Why do you think so little people know about this issue?
It’s not always close-mindedness. A lot of what we see in the news is focused on Western nations. A lot of people don’t know about these issues because we all live in our own worlds and we’re facing our own personal issues. - Aisha
What words do you have to share with students?
The power of education is often underestimated in the Western world. I think many students don’t realize the power and privilege of education – you can learn something from going to class that applies to a bigger picture. - Ahmed
We don’t even want to impact a lot of people or the world – if one person is impacted or learns more about this issue, I’d say that’s a success. - Jovin
World challenge: Responsible consumption and poverty
Lyndan Lam, Commerce, 5th year | Talise Tsai, Commerce, 4th year | John Kim, Commerce, 4th year
Women menstruate. It’s a fact and universal, yet not all women have access to feminine hygiene products. In North America alone, these products contribute 1.4 million tonnes of waste to landfills annually. This team is tackling the overlapping issues of global overconsumption and access to feminine hygiene products within impoverished communities.
What motivated you to tackle this two-fronted issue?
It’s an issue that a lot of people don’t realize is an issue since a lot haven’t been in poverty or in a situation where we can’t afford those products. It’s a unique issue in that it’s something every woman needs but not every woman has access to. - Talise
We wanted to localize the issue of poverty and approach it from the aspect of feminine hygiene because we thought it was an issue that wasn’t served as adequately in contrast to other services like food or housing. - Lyndan
What drew you to issues of poverty in the downtown eastside?
It surprised me that despite living in one of the most luxurious cities in the world, there’s such a huge disparity in wealth – that you could be in a high-end store on one block and the next block is a completely different environment. - Talise
Any words of wisdom you have to offer?
A lot of the influential moments in my life were because of an offhand comment or someone giving me a piece of advice without realizing how it’d impact me but it shows the impact of how small acts can make a big difference. - Talise
Not everything is going to go right or successful the first time, but if you keep trying despite the obstacles, you can make a difference. - Lyndan
Attend the finals and support these six teams as they present their solutions this Thursday, Feb 8th, 5:00 to 7:00 pm at the Liu Institute for Global Issues.
The judges for the evening include Paulina Cameron, Regional Director for BC & Yukon at Futurepreneur Canada, Dr. Hadi Dowlatabadi, Professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, Vikramaditya G.Yadav, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Wendy Yip, university ambassador, lawyer and immunologist, and wife of President Ono.