Meenakshi Munda, who is an indigenous youth from the Munda community of Jharkhand, India, attended the meeting in her role as President of the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN). Speaking with UN Radio, Ms. Munda underscored the importance of rejuvenating indigenous languages to protect the identity of indigenous communities and the rich culture and wisdom preserved in this way. Describing the knowledge the elders in her community has in medicine and plants she said, “this knowledge is intact in mother tongue. If we want to learn that, we have to learn indigenous language. Also, our oral history is intact in mother tongue, so if we want to know our own history, we have to know our own culture, our own language”, she explained. “It is of course important that the UN now puts more focus on indigenous youth because if we look at indigenous peoples as a whole, the youth are the most important group. It is our responsibility to continue our language, traditions and cultures,” said Tuomas Aslak Juuso, President of the National Finnish Sámi Youths, as he spoke with UN Radio. Mr. Juuso, who has been promoting the rights of the Sámi in Finland over the past decade and who is also the co-chair of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, emphasized the importance of being able to use your own language and to continue traditional livelihoods.
At the meeting, Ms. Akhtar described youth as “our global asset” and their role as critical for both social and economic stability. She further stated that a “younger generation of indigenous population can be promising for their community if their vitality and vigor is appropriately unleashed and they can transform the overall indigenous community’s destiny. Youth drives idealism, creativity, entrepreneurship and with appropriate support can help make the world a better place”.