Lives with Purpose – Alumni Profile

An enthusiastic advocate for empowering the next generation of youth leaders to make their voices heard, Ané was named a Young Woman to Watch by Young Australians in International Affairs in 2021. 

Valuable lessons learned at UNSW

UNSW is a university that has been at the forefront of innovation for quite some time. I really wanted to study in an environment where I could learn from the people that were changing the way that we looked at the future and challenging how things were done. I discovered my passion for international development during my time at UNSW. It’s a passion which has taken me around the world and remains the driving force behind everything I do and work towards. 

I was inspired to learn the ways in which people from around the world were coming together to create a better future where no-one is left behind and I was certain that I wanted to be a part of that. It mattered to me that I would be equipped to play a part in ensuring that the world we have tomorrow is even better than the one we have today.

My time at university was truly life changing, and I will forever be grateful for the role that UNSW played in helping me find my purpose.

Loving what you do – a career with purpose

I believe that everyone has the power to make a meaningful, positive difference in the world. There are so many pressing issues facing the world today and we need people with diverse skillsets and unique perspectives to find ways to unite and instigate change. 

Through my work in international development, I am doing my small part to help make the world better. Knowing that the work I do improves the lives of others drives me every single day and gives me a genuine sense of purpose.

Highlights on the career journey

I am the founder and CEO of Young Women in Sustainable Development (YWISD) an organisation which seeks to address the barriers preventing young women from taking action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and amplify the voices and impact of young women across every aspect of sustainable development, from policy to implementation. The SDGs are essentially a global roadmap used by the United Nations, Governments, and other major NGOs to address some of the biggest issues facing the world and its inhabitants, covering everything from climate action to ending global poverty.

We provide capacity building programs, run advocacy campaigns, provide policy inputs and fund grassroots solutions led by women. We also embrace and champion innovation, such as working in the metaverse and using Crypto currency to support innovative financing options. YWISD has currently reached 47 countries and helped empower thousands of people to take action in their local communities, countries and around the world.

Working with young women from around the world who are so committed to creating a better world has been an incredible privilege. I am constantly in awe of the amazing work they are doing and the incredible impact these women are having on society. I have been lucky enough to attend multiple high-level UN international negotiations on developmental issues, a highlight of which was leading the creation of the first ever Australian Youth Climate Statement, the official position of Australian youth for COP26.

Another of my favourite experiences so far has been living and volunteering in the Pacific as part of the Australian Aid program. The community in Fiji where I was based was incredibly welcoming and it was an amazing privilege to learn about Pasifika culture, whilst seeing first-hand the amazing work these communities are doing in the Pacific to support the SDGs.

Problem solving at work

Working in development we help to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues, from ending poverty to tackling climate change. I believe that young women have a crucial role to play in addressing these global issues and I am passionate about supporting them to do so, by breaking down the barriers they often face despite their determination to take positive action.

Through YWISD we empower young women around the world to become leaders in their communities to drive ambitious action against these global issues. They are not only supported individually through capacity building programs, funding support, peer to peer connection, but also by working to create an enabling environment in these communities, nationally and internationally through advocacy campaigns, productive dialogue, and policy work.

Building resilience

Global issues require responses on a global scale. They require Governments, NGO’s, the private sector, academics, and the general public to collaborate in order to achieve a common goal. I’ve always found that there is something so inspiring about the concept that people around the world are joining forces every single day to work towards making the world a better place for all of us.

Even though progress often doesn’t happen at the desired pace and there are often setbacks, I know from experience that there are good people all around the world who continue to strive tirelessly to achieve these important objectives. Maintaining my awareness of that always inspires me to keep trying and doing my part to contribute, no matter how challenging the obstacles may be.

Proudest achievements

Starting Young Women in Sustainable Development has been my proudest achievement to date. It has been such an incredible journey. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work with and learn from so many inspiring women from around the world, whilst tackling some of society’s most serious issues.

Advice for current UNSW students

Each one of us has the power to change the world. Every time we do something, however small, to try and make the world better we are making a difference. Whatever your passion is, find a way that you can make meaningful impact in that space to help others. Because if we all do just that, the world will be a much better place.

Ané Coetzee is CEO and Founder, Young Women in Sustainable Development.

Degree and year of graduation: Bachelor of Media (Public Relations and Advertising), 2016.