11 Questions with the 11th Youth Observer to the UN
In honor of naming Himaja Nagireddy the 11th UNA-USA Youth Observer to the United Nations, we asked her 11 questions about her passion for youth engagement, her experience becoming our YO, and whether or not her astrological sign describes her accurately. Learn more about Himaja below, and sign up for a Listening Tour stop to share your thoughts and ideas with her!
1. What’s your UNA-USA story? (How did you get involved?)
- My UNA journey began 6 years ago! I started a UNA-USA campus chapter at UConn, the first collegiate chapter in CT at the time, during my freshman year. I didn’t have a strong background in international relations, so when my younger sister encouraged me to start a UNA campus chapter, I wondered if this was something I could do. I remember reaching out to UNA-USA staff at the time, and they helped me realize that I could find a home at UNA. Being a part of UNA has taught me that everyone has the capacity to be a change maker. There’s an SDG for everyone. And we need different perspectives! UNA helped me realize that my background and passion in STEM could help me advocate for human rights in unique and fascinating avenues.
2. Why did you decide to apply to be Youth Observer?
- I decided to apply because I believe young voices need to be heard, valued, and acted upon in spaces of decision-making at all levels, from the local to the global, since decisions made today directly impact our lives and future generations. Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to connect with hundreds of fellow young activists who have incredibly moving stories, contextualizing their lived experiences, that compel them to localize the Global Goals. These stories create powerful frameworks for change that may be adopted in other communities. Youth Observers have a unique opportunity to center and honor these stories in all spaces they occupy, something I am committed to and look forward to doing.
3. What issues are you most excited to focus on this year?
- I am so excited to advocate for all SDGs but particularly hope to focus my term on promoting environmental justice, gender equity, and civic engagement – all through a lens of social justice and representation.
4. What is something about becoming the YO that surprised you?
- I was surprised that each Youth Observer’s term looks different! Cynthia Yue, our previous Youth Observer, was instrumental in helping me feel more at home in the role – and one thing she mentioned was that no two Youth Observer terms are the same because each Observer brings their unique interests, experiences, and background to the role. This shapes their agenda for the year, the initiatives they create, and the UN conferences/sessions they attend and represent US youth at.
5. Tell us more about this Youth Declaration of Human Rights you are working on. Why do you think it’s important to create?
- The Youth Declaration of Human Rights, written by and for US Youth, will be my capstone project! This Declaration of Human Rights, inspired by the UN Declaration, will set fundamental human rights that need to be protected for all young people in our country. Feedback will be compiled from nationwide Listening Tours, events, social media, surveys, and reports from previous US Youth Observer terms. This will be a symbol of youth support for the UN and a powerful call to action for US leadership to recognize what young people have been advocating for – that we want our human rights and dignity recognized and protected. This Declaration would be a truly unique document in that it would also feature stories of young people in the US. At the end of my term, we will have a completed Declaration signed by thousands of young Americans to share with the world.
6. Favorite UNA-USA moment?
- The 2018 Leadership Summit! I loved the youth-focused programming, the Universal Periodic Review Sessions, and Hill Day when I got to join thousands of advocates in meetings with people of Congress (attending the Pride Parade after and seeing Alesia Cara perform was the icing on the cake)
7. What dog breed would you be and why?
- A husky! UConn pride 🙂
8. Who is a role model or mentor that helped you get to where you are today?
- My grandma! She was one of the first women in her community to pursue higher education and worked as a Telugu language lecturer for over three decades in a local women’s college. Throughout her career, she strove to uplift the voices of her students, even covering the costs for their works to be published so her students could feel pride in all they had accomplished. She is the gender equity advocate I strive to be every single day. ❤
9. What superpower would you choose if you could choose one?
- Flying! At high speed, so I’m never late to places and can see the world from high above. Also, that would be great for my carbon footprint!
10. Proudest accomplishment in your life so far.
- This! I was also really proud of myself when I finally got my driver’s license – cue Olivia Rodrigo (I passed on my third try and promptly started sobbing in happiness).
11. What’s your astrology sign and do you think it represents you accurately?
- Scorpio, and sort of! I fall on the cutoff date between being a Libra and Scorpio so I like to think I’m a blend of the two. 😊