Jasleen Bains thought that student voices were not being heard on international issues, so she teamed up with Alseena Thomas to try to create a niche organization to help students volunteer for causes related to international politics.
The United Nations Youth Association at UCLA, founded by Bains, a fourth-year political science student, and Thomas, a fourth-year biology student, aims to inform UCLA students about the U.N. Millennium Development Goals and volunteer locally to achieve these objectives. They want to realize some of these goals in Los Angeles, including ending poverty, promoting gender equality and environmental sustainability, Thomas said.
The club, founded in fall, held its first general meeting on Monday.
The U.N. Millennium Development Goals are a set of eight objectives the U.N. laid out in 2000 to achieve by 2015. Though it is 2015, the U.N. continues to work toward these goals. The club has received guidance from the L.A. chapter of the U.N., Thomas said.
The UCLA United Nations Youth Association is made up of committees, each of which is assigned a goal to work toward. Bains said the committee on ending poverty will be hosting an event during sixth week where professors, spoken word performers and other artists will share their personal experiences and research about poverty.
Bains said one of the main objectives of the group is to get students to understand international issues that they might not think impact them as UCLA students. One issue Bains mentioned was the conflict taking place in Nigeria between the state and the insurgent group Boko Haram.
“I lived in the UCLA bubble, and I think it’s important to bring awareness to issues happening in other places, like the events happening in Nigeria,” Bains said.
Bains said she felt there needed to be a club on campus that furthered the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. She said she was inspired to start the club on campus after interning at the U.N. in New York in the fall of 2013.
“There are clubs that discuss international issues, but I wanted an organization that focuses on U.N. awareness as well. My mentors in New York taught me that we aren’t just students; we have the capability to change policy,” Bains said.
Thomas said she thinks the club serves a purpose different than that of other groups on campus. Groups like Model U.N. and mock trial represent how organizations operate and focus on debating, while their club’s goal is to volunteer and teach students about international issues, Thomas said.
The club began to reach out to students during fall quarter with an event informing students about global health issues, said Linda Huang, a third-year anthropology student. Huang said the group had a table on Bruin Walk where students could spin a wheel to learn trivia about global health issues.
Sai Vidya Krovvidi, a first-year economics student, said group members hope to teach students about how the issues outlined in the development goals affect one another.
“We want to unite all of the issues. Instead of just talking about poverty, we also want to talk about health and human rights and how those things affect each other,” Krovvidi said.
The club is sending representatives to a U.N. conference in New York, and Bains said that she hopes that in the future the whole group would be able to attend.
The U.N. Youth Association meets on Mondays at 7 p.m. in Ackerman 3517.