August is the international youth month and on the 12th , the world bank group hosted young people from across the world to commemorate the international youth day at their headquarters in Washington, DC. The umbrella of the commemoration was the International Young Leaders Assembly(IYLA) 2017- which according to John Dickson, Chairman, Global Young Leaders Academy, took a long time to organize. The assembly was all about finding solutions to problems that plague young people and also to discuss some of the challenges that stagnate youth development. It was wonderful to see young adults and youngsters deliberating on issues of national and global importance. There were two sessions on the day – the service session and the entrepreneur session – before the commencement of the sessions, Daniel Pierini, Alternate Executive Director for Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, World Bank delivered a keynote address which centered around the impact that young people have in the world and what role they have in policy creation.
For the service session, there was a distinguished panel of Political leaders, ambassadors (former and current) and development experts. They all shared what they are involved in and how they impacted the communities they are involved with. Koby J. Langley, Senior vice president, Service to the Armed Force & International Humanitarian Law, American Red Cross, shared a story about his involvement in the Iraqi war – He was brought in as a young law expert, his duty was to ensure that the soldiers even though they are in war they respect human life and abide by the Laws of War. He indicated that at one point there would go on for three months without taking a bath, the conditions were tough and hard but one thing kept him and everyone going, the gifts and messages they received from the American people, one moment that prompted him to have a new definition for leadership was when he got a box of crushed Oreos and a broken toothbrush, He thought for a moment about his gifts and pictured the people who might have sent these wonderful essentials, which are in most cases trivial items, but in war they are highly important – at that moment he figured that Maybe leadership is about love and compassion, for he was convinced that the Unknown Americans who sent them gifts were doing that because of love and compassion. He said that made him to work even hard to protect human life in the war-torn Iraq.
I would like to share everyone’s story unfortunately I can’t, I will need to write a book to do that. Another story that I think is worth sharing is from Navya Maitri Konda, Co-Founder & President, GOAL; Stanford University, – who was visiting India at one time – she visited a center that offered learners to study and to do their homework after school. She felt happy that such a center was available to all the children in the community. One night the lights went off and the kids started to pack their books and left, she got hold of one of the children and asked why they are leaving to which he replied, “The power outages happen all the time and we don’t know when the power might be restored it can go on for days”. Hearing this she was perplexed, she came back to the United States and she started to look for solutions – she talked to colleagues, consulted professors and energy experts so that she can eliminate the problem that has the potential of ruining a good initiative and destroying the future of the children. She got the help needed and they erected solar powerlines for this particular study center. Her talk on leadership is that you do not need to be directly affected by a problem before you could find a solution to it, if it is affecting somebody and you have the means to solve it, get on it. She believes leadership is solving problems even though they have nothing to do with you.
There were closing remarks for the first session from the member of parliament in Uganda, Hon. Babirye Sarah Kityo Breeze. Her address was tailored for leaders in government. She stressed the need for young leaders in world governments so that young people’s voices can be heard in high level of power so that they can be tackled effectively. She mentioned a fact that got her applause – 60% of the members of parliament in Uganda are young women. Which is higher that any other country in the world.
The second session moved very quick and the panel was comprised of young and old entrepreneurs. They all shared stories about their businesses and how they got them to be successful. What I learned from them was that you will never be successful in business if you do not take risks and make necessary sacrifices. “To be an entrepreneur is not something you wish for, it is something that you live – it becomes a part of you”. Wise words from one of the panelists. They also had a special advice for NGOs – “it is important for NGOs to not rely only on donations, they should really think of developing their own product that can generate income to fund some of their initiatives “, said Robert Dowling founder, PennDPC; co-Founder, repurpose.
As young people, we are agents of change but we seem not to understand what that means. We are still hiding in the shadows. The young leader assembly was successful and most issues were discussed and the solutions were diverse, but they lacked scientific reasoning. After the two sessions were concluded there was a group discussion of about 17 core issues that are common to all the countries of the world – sustainable energy, infrastructure development, childcare, and all the way to climate change. The solutions from young were all social solutions but none of them were scientific even on issues that required science and technology. That troubled me – it means this generation lacks a holistic view of what is happening around them – some even narrowed their solutions to political rhetoric that lacks facts.
As the CCI cohort from NOVA we learned a lot from the panel that was invited to the Assembly but we learned nothing from our peers, the same cannot be said about the CCI cohort. We participated in every discussion and contributed greatly in those discussions, but scientific reasoning was still missing.
Post written by Vuyani Maduna, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Alexandria from South Africa