Neha Malhotra, OCIC Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador 2018

Age: 20 | City: Bradtford, ON | Partners For A Better World: Engineers Without Borders, Indigenous Health Movement

“I don’t need to go somewhere else to work on issues, these are in our own back yard. How can I say that ‘I have no part in this.’ I need to ensure that I understand what’s going on within my own backyard before I try to go outside.”

Neha Malhotra, co-founder and, co-chair of the Indigenous Health Movement, is a motivated and dedicated leader who consistently leads various teams toward making positive sustainable impacts within the Hamilton community and beyond. As an active member of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), she has directed initiatives surrounding political advocacy and she currently supports her chapter members as co-president. Neha is passionate about advocating for a community-centered approach to identify disparities in Indigenous health. Neha’s vision to respectfully and passionately bring together various worldviews is both admirable and inspiring. Neha continues to show utmost humility and social awareness for the communities she is working with and recognizes her position as a learner and ally throughout. Neha, lead the McMaster EWB Political Advocacy Team, through which she facilitated several workshops and campaigns on the Sustainable Development Goals. This past spring, Neha participated in Engineers Without Borders’ Day of Action; she joined 50 other young leaders from across Canada for two days in Ottawa to meet with MPs.

Meet Neha Malhotra, OCIC Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador 2018

Host David Peck, in conversation with OCIC’s Global Changemaker Youth Ambassadors will inspire you to get involved in moving the needle towards global social justice and sustainable change.

Can youth make a difference?

Youth, as the future of their communities, are at the centre of a growing movement to make meaningful change and live a life of integrity. Across the globe, and especially in Canada, I am sensing a generational shift towards a desire to challenge the status quo. Youth are willing to be hopeful and courageous. However, we’re frustrated – we’re frustrated with this moment in time when our world is more connected than it ever has been, but is still struggling to bring us together. And so I want our youth to demonstrate the courage to listen and explore issues of intolerance. Rather than fearing and excluding one another, listen to your neighbour and learn from others. Rather than being governed by hate, it’s time for each of us to act, educate, and go out to learn more for ourselves too. Our young people need to develop capacities and practice independent judgement, critical thinking and ethical reasoning.

The diversity of our world’s many religious, languages, cultures and ethnicities should not be pretext for conflict, but rather a treasure that enriches us all.

Martin Luther King once said that,

“people fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other”.

Listen and understand. Because we all want nothing more.

What does inclusion mean in the context of innovation?

Paulo Freire once said “Authentic help means that all who are involved help each other mutually, growing together in the common effort to understand the reality which they seek to transform. Only through such praxis, in which those who help and those who are being helped help each other simultaneously, can the act of helping become free from the distortion in which the helper dominates the helped” The first step of innovation is understanding and empathizing with the community for which you work.

Always remember that community members are the experts of the challenge you are addressing. Reflect on your positionality and the privilege you’ve been granted to be a part of another’s narrative. When you put a human at the center of all that you do, inclusion becomes the foundation of innovation.

Do the SDGs present an opportunity or a challenge?

We’re currently seeing neo-liberal ideologies play out at the expense of society – only a fraction of the human population has benefited, while more than half of the world continues to live in the face of poverty. However, the SDGs present an opportunity for us to switch the focus from individual progress to one the values mutual interdependence. As a collective, the SDGs are a societal commitment to ensuring that every life is valued equally, and sets a precedent for the future of global development.

Neha’s Book recommendation

Paul Kalanithiʼs memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, redefined the way I see my time on this planet. In this provocative narrative, I was posed with questions that asked me to reflect and ponder on my finite existence. I canʼt help but always ask myself, “What makes a life worth living?”

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Nominating Organization

With our vision of a world where everyone has the opportunity to live to their full potential, Engineers Without Borders Canada works to unlock human potential. To realize this vision, we operate systemically and strategically to enact positive, scalable change. Since our founding in 2000, our mission is to focus on addressing the root causes of poverty and inequity by investing in people and ideas. We are a global organization that combines leadership development, social enterprise investments and policy change to deliver impact in Canada and Sub-Saharan Africa.