By Jennifer Ehidiamen
About 54% of the youth delegates at the 7th UNESCO Youth forum are females. As the event formally kicks off today, Sibongile Nkosi talks about her work in Malawi that qualified her to be selected to represent her country at the forum. Sarah Ayewah, representing Nigeria at the forum, shares her takeout at the first session of the youth forum- Conflict Resolution Workshop with Forest Whitaker, Academy Award Winner and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Sylvia Namukasa, from Uganda, reflects on her experience as the youth delegate from the 6th UNESCO Youth Forum and how it has inspired her to drive change locally, while gaining global recognition. All the three young women have a message of change for youth in Africa and all over the world.
The full interview below:
Sibongile Nkosi is a young delegate selected to attend the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum. Back home in Malawi, Sibongile works in a youth organization that focuses on creating behaviour change intervention among young people in rural areas by implementing different capacity training programs to build capacity of young people and impact knowledge. The beneficiaries of their programs are equipped with vocational skills to reduce unemployment rate in Malawi. “So that once they have these skills they can employ themselves by starting small scale business” says the Malawian delegate.
Like Sibongile, about 230 young change-makers were selected as youth delegates to participate in this year’s Youth Forum taking place October 17th to 20th in Paris. According to the news report on UNESCO Youth Forum’s website, in the course of the forum, these delegates “will discuss, debate, and exchange ideas on the Forum’s timely themes and have the opportunity to present their recommendations to the representatives of Member States during the 36th UNESCO General Conference.”
Tagged “How Youth Drive Change,” the sub-themes of focus includes, “Citizens in action: youth in political and public life; Countering youth exclusion, vulnerability and violence; and Breaking through employment barriers.”
For Sibongile, her expectations at the forum includes learning from other African delegates, sharing knowledge and different skills so that she can take the new knowledge back home and implement in different project areas. “I must encourage youths back home to stay focused no matter the challenges and achieve something for the good of the entire nation.” She says.
Sarah Ayewah from Edo State in Nigeria currently lives in Paris. “I am a student here getting a masters in International Law.” She says. Although she is not involved in grassroots youth work, in the course of her studies she has developed an interest in the role of youth in development in Nigeria. “My thesis was on the youth problem in the Niger Delta. It is interesting how youth drive change.” She says.
The first session of the youth forum today was a Conflict Resolution Workshop organized by Forest Whitaker, Academy Award Winner and UNESCO Goodwill Abassador. The session was declared opened by Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General.
In her opening remark, Ms Bokova reiterated the importance of UNESCO’s work in improving human rights around the world. Forest Whitaker said that she is the one who inspires him and others. Afterwards, he introduced his workshop to the youth delegates.
“I like the fact that they say conflict start with the individual…the individual attitude towards a given situation. A lot of times when we look at conflict in Nigeria we just look at the government and the other party, such as MEND rebels and Boko Haram.” Sarah says.
While sharing her take-out on the conflict resolution workshop, Sarah added “When you want to talk about conflict resolution and peacemaking, you have to start with the individuals… their personal struggles before we can deal with the situation. In order to achieve conflict resolution, we need to find out what is really causing the conflict.”
“In Nigeria I think we don’t really know what is causing the conflict. We have perception of what the conflict situation is about. We need to find out from a personal level what the key issues are- whether it is Education, access to Employment, clean water, good environment to carryout fishing or farming activities etc. We need to get to root causes of conflict to resolve it.”
On her expectation for the rest of the sessions during the forum, Sarah says, “I expect to learn a lot…it will be interesting to learn what other youth are going through in their countries. I am looking forward to getting a lot of information.”
She advised youth, particularly Nigerian youth, not to be indifferent to the situations in their communities. “Don’t stay indifferent, there are people with real struggles, if you become more active in the process of development, it will shake up the government to change things.”
Aside the 2011 youth delegates in attendance, the youth forum also brought together “civil society participants, UN entities, intergovernmental organizations, academics and the private sector.” In addition, some youth delegates from the 6th UNESCO Youth forum, which took place in 2009 were selected to share their experience on how the UNESCO youth forum has helped them drive change.
Sylvia Namukasa is currently the director and founder of Kirinda Youth Environment Management and Poverty Alleviation Program Uganda (KYEMPAPU). She started the organization right after her participation at the youth forum. “They advised us to put in practice what we learnt here.” She says.
“For this 7th, I expect to expand my network. I have noticed there are other youths at this forum, I expect to network with them. I think it is possible for African youths to drive change. They say we should face the risk, unless we face the risk we cannot achieve. I think they should come out and face the risk so that at the end they can achieve. I think youths should be open to elders, consult them on how to move on. But with how fast things are going; we must remember that unless we change things, no one else will do it for us.” She says.
Sylvia was recently recognized for her efforts to improve livelihoods and climate change. She was awarded ENO environment Awards for advocating for climate change.
“I must appreciate this opportunity given to me.” She says, referring to the opportunity to serve on the panel. “I applied knowing so many people applied for it too. I must appreciate UNESCO and other youth who have worked with me to achieve this.” She says.
About UNESCO Youth Forum
The UNESCO Youth Forum, held prior to UNESCO’s General Conference, brings together young delegates from all over the world to exchange views, share experiences, reflect together and, above all, detect common preoccupations and problems. The event allows young people to voice their ideas and concerns and make suggestions directly to the UNESCO General Conference.
Today’s youth are raising their voices to shape the present and futures of their countries. They want to be heard, to be included in decision-making debates and to make change. Student engagement, social innovation, fostering democracy, youth employment, conflict and sustainable development are among the issues that will be discussed on the floor of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum.
- 7th UNESCO Youth Forum, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France, 17-20 October 2011
To learn more about the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum, click here
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