When you’ve dabbled into acting throughout your childhood, you’ve hosted your radio show on a local station with the premise of giving Gozitan youth a voice, and have been involved in youth organisations for more than half of your life, you are undoubtedly predisposed to a life of youth activism. But even if Eman Borg has the confidence and the experience to be in public fora, he thinks youth activism is a movement in which there’s a place for everyone. The more, the merrier, as the cliché goes – whatever is needed to make sure the voice of Maltese youth is loud enough for everybody to hear it.
Eman, who is 25 at the time of this interview, recently made headlines because of his appointment as Malta’s Ambassador for Youths in the Commonwealth, a role that has the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Last year, in 2019, Eman also represented Malta in the Commonwealth Youth Forum, and currently serves as a youth advisor to the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust. Not to mention his involvement in Malta’s National Youth Council in different capacities over the past few years, and in LGBTI+ in Gozo. “I am privileged to be able to represent my country on such an international level at such a critical time, but what I’m most proud of is that I am able to bring the values of peace and democracy to the table to foster cooperation”, he says about being Youth Ambassador.
Eman’s role is to serve as a bridge between Maltese youth and youth in other Commonwealth countries to raise awareness and take a stand on pressing matters - poverty, inequality in education, housing and environmental sustainability. “Basically, I need to stay aware of what is happening in the local sphere and moving that to an international platform, where disparities exist and priorities might be slightly different”.
But then there are certain commonalities, like sustainable development, which is a topic that is very close to Eman’s heart. It has already been established that Malta needs to take concrete actions on reducing carbon emissions. As a response to this, the National Youth Council has already launched a policy paper with a number of recommendations, told Parliament to declare a national state of emergency with regards to climate change, and publicly highlighted the huge lack of awareness of Sustainable Development Goals on a local level. “You see, one important trait for anyone to be a good youth activist is to be critical and be able to see that things can be done just a little bit better. And then speak up about it.”
He explains to Newspoint that national youth councils frequently discuss, amongst eachother, how to coordinate their work in the Commonwealth sphere, especially within the Commonwealth Youth branch. “This is an important organ within Commonwealth, because 60% of the population within Commonwealth is under the age of 30”, he says. With the UK leaving the European Union, Malta’s and Cyprus’ role in the relationship between the UK & the rest of the EU is something that needs to be reassessed, therefore Maltese youth “should take this opportunity to speak up on a Commonwealth level. When youths unite, there is a stronger power of believing that we can achieve something.”
Eman believes that his being part of the UM community has given him a lot of pushes forward to achieve more than he thought he could, but that he wishes to see a wider application of the academia in ‘the outside world’. Calling the University “microscopic evidence of the outside world”, Eman explains further by saying that he would like to see more academics be present in policy-making and contribute more to national debate.
That being said, being part of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing has helped him engage with professionals and service providers. He also proudly mentions having worked with Pro-Rector for Student & Staff Affairs and Outreach, Prof. Carmen Sammut, whose sheer positivity and knowledge empowers him to continue working on a University level. This synergy between different facets of the UM community is something he’s also experienced while being part of the University’s Rowing Club, where he’s seen what it’s like to collaborate with commercial entities while still safeguarding the interests of students.
“It’s a pity when students end up competing against eachother when it comes to policy and student lifestyle, because at the end of the day, as youth, we want to put the volume up a bit as one voice”.
Asked about his future plans, Eman tells Newspoint that by the time his role as Ambassador terminates in March 2021, he will be in the final stages of finishing up his dissertation. A Masters’ degree seems to be in the cards, though he is not sure in which area as of yet. “What I’m sure of is that whether I’m physically here or abroad, I will keep making my voice heard and in doing so, encouraging others to follow suit.”
“With or without me, I hope wheels will keep turning and being set in motion with the voice of youth being heard, loud and clear. And at the end, the voice of youths needs to be only heard but acted upon and given the value it deserves."