Meet the #YLSConf21 keynote speakers

This year's National Youth Work Conference will help you supercharge your environmental youth work offer as Glasgow prepares to host the historic COP26 summit later this year. We've got an exciting array of climate activists and environmental experts to help you equip you with the skills and climate literacy to support young people's engagement in Our Climate Emergency!

Jamie Hepburn MSP

Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training
Jamie was educated at Hyndland Secondary and the University of Glasgow, graduating with a degree in Politics and History. He served as National Convener of the SNP's student and youth wings, was MSP for Central Scotland between 2007 and 2011 and has been MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth since 2011. He was appointed Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health in November 2014. He was previously the Minister for Employability and Training.

Mairi McAllan MSP

Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform
Previously a special adviser to the First Minister on environment, climate change, land reform and renewable energy policy, Mairi McAllan was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2021 to represent the constituency of Clydesdale. Ms McAllan grew up and was educated in the town of Biggar in South Lanarkshire, before studying Scots law at the University of Glasgow. She went on to co-found the human rights organisation RebLaw Scotland.

Mara Menzies

Award winning author of Blood and Gold
Kenyan/Scottish performance storyteller Mara Menzies draws on her dual heritage to create stories that inspire, inform and remind us who we are. She is passionate about the natural world and working with her grandmother's village in Kenya, she has helped plant over 1000 indigenous trees over the last two years. She uses stories as a tool that enables us to bridge gaps, question ourselves, and bring about positive change.

Chinyanta Kabaso

Development Worker, Youth Community Support Agency
Chinyanta comes from an engineering background and obtained her Bachelors Degree from the University of Edinburgh. During her time at university she was actively involved in many projects with the university services. While working as a resident assistant she achieved a Silver Sustainability Award for her residence by implementing changes that allowed the students to be more conscious of their carbon footprint. She developed a project for young BME people in Glasgow and Edinburgh to discuss important issues such as mental health and climate change before joining YCSA on the Mending Our Planet Project. She is also an ambassador for an international charity in her home country of Zambia that supports young people to have better access to education and personally fundraises for their cause.

Michael McLoughlin

Head of Advocacy and Communications, Youth Work Ireland
Michael is responsible for youth advocacy, communications, policy submissions, media relations and campaigns for Ireland's national youth work agency. He is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee, the EU's Consultative Body for Civil Society and Board Member of the National Youth Council of Ireland.

Gina Halpin

Head of Information and Inclusion, Youth Work Ireland
Gina develops and coordinates information strategies, actions and national campaigns for youth inclusion programmes and initiatives.

Ankica Sokolic

Young Friends of the Earth Macedonia
Ankica studies environmental engineering and is a co-founder of Kolektiv Z, a youth women-led collective dedicated to climate and social justice. She is passionate about analysing environmental issues from a political and economic standpoint.

Sophie Hoult

University of Edinburgh
Sophie Hoult has recently finished her master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh, studying MSc Global Environment, Politics and Society. During the course of her degree, she worked closely with YouthLink Scotland on a research project looking at climate change policies within the youth work sector, which included interviews with youth workers and young people across Scotland.

Brenda Mwale

Malawi-Scotland Partnership
Brenda is a climate activist based in Malawi and is currently a climate change leader for the Malawi-Scotland Partnership. Brenda is an active member of the Global Coordination Team, as well as a Programmes Manager for both the Green Girls Platform and Malawi National Youth Network on Climate Change.

Luisa Brown

Malawi-Scotland Partnership
Luisa is the Youth & Schools Officer for the Scotland Malawi Partnership, with a passion for promoting international partnership working within the youth work sector. The recent, youth-led online Youth Festival in March 2021 reached over 250,000 people across Scotland and Malawi, engaging young people across nations on the key issues of Climate Change, Race & Equality and Climate Justice ahead of COP26.

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