A group of Grade 9 girls with a passion for animal rights have won first place in the local Sustainable Development Challenge — earning themselves $5,000 to make their ideas come to life.
Caitlin Mahony, Lexie Pfenning, Erin Work and Annabelle Lee are students at Okanagan Mission Secondary school who launched Our Voice for Change, which is focused on removing animal dissections from school classrooms and replacing them with alternative technologies.
“From a young age we’ve always just been used to caring about animals and their rights which really led up to building this project,” says Work.
The Sustainable Development Challenge requires participants to choose goals from the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Our Voice for Change is focused on Life on Land and Sustainable Consumption and Production.
“Once you develop your project and you know what you want to do, you have to start taking action,” says Work. “So, it was stressful but it was also so much fun and it was so great seeing our idea come to life.”
The girls partnered with the BC SPCA and Society for Humane Science which helped them develop their ideas.
“Through this project, we hope to encourage and inspire students to take a stand in their education and to stand up for what they believe is right,” says Mahony.
On Feb. 24, the girls participated in the Sustainable Development Challenge’s finale at the Rotary Centre for the Arts. Their pitch won them first place.
“It was amazing, it was so surreal and just being a part of the Sustainable Development Challenge as a whole was an amazing opportunity for all of us. We couldn’t believe we achieved the things we did,” says Work.
According to the girls, the prize money will be put towards good use.
"Most of our budget is put towards more technologies, apps and programs to use for our school so that we can give students the same, and in many cases, a better level of education," says Pfenning.
“The Sustainable Development Challenge was really important to us because it’s all about empowering youth and it really encouraged us to believe in our project and pursue our goals,” says Lee. “Encouraging youth is really important today because they’re going to be our next leaders.”