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Filipino children and youth among youngest winners of 2021 ESD Okayama Award in Japan

Okayama City Japan

A Filipino youth-led project, Ladders to Literacy, recently won in the 2021 ESD Okayama Awards organized by the steering board composed of the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), UNESCO Bangkok, Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU), Japan Council on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD-J), The Goi Peace Foundation, and the Okayama ESD Promotion Commission in Okayama, Japan on October 2021.

Headed by nursing student Qjiel Mariano, with Trixie Ann Bautista, Janis Andriella Santiago, Bianca Adia, Jerald Trambulo, Jasmine Grande, Ambriel Pascual, Biyaya Macaraig, Aaliyah Duran, Alexa Taay, and Jessica Dimaandal, these youths alongside children in the community initiated a literacy project entitled, Ladders to Literacy. The said project is a model of sustainable development and child participation as it aims to help children publish storybooks on the community issues such as health, environment, and inequality. This creates an avenue for younger generations to receive tailor-fit information on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as to educate the parents while they read storybooks to children. The project champions prioritizing lifelong learning initiatives for the most vulnerable groups – those living in poverty.

The ESD Okayama Awards is an annual search of the best Education for Sustainable Development practices in the world since 2015. Two winners of the award are given a $3,000 or 300,000 yen cash prize to support their initiative. The award-giving body amplifies the call to action for a better world. “Promoting Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is considered critical to ensure the quality of education for achieving these goals. Furthermore, the new international framework of ESD has started in January 2020, which is named “ESD for 2030”. ESD is expected to be promoted now more than ever.” as mentioned on their website.

This year, there were 118 entries from 48 countries all over the world, and the top 10 finalists were revealed in September, hailing from Malaysia (3 entries), Spain (2 entries), the Philippines (2 entries), Malawi, South Africa, and Senegal. You may view the results of the 1st selection here: ESD Okayama Award 2021 Result of the 1st Selection. South Africa’s Wise Wayz Water Care by the Triple-P: Partners for People and Planet organization is also one of the two winners this year. The official announcements of the winners are on the official website of Okayama City: https://www.city.okayama.jp/kurashi/0000032939.html or the Okayama ESD Navi: http://www.okayama-tbox.jp/esd/pages/14684

Mariano and his team are considered the youngest winners of the competition and the first student-led winners of the competition, as the previous winners were led by professionals and university officials. “We hope to become role models for fellow youth that innovations may come from younger generations and that we are capable of contributing solutions to the world’s problems with the guidance of mentors and professionals,” says Mariano. The team is composed of students from the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas.