By September 14, 2013 Read More →

Empowering Youth

By Gal Zeidman


The youth assembly primarily focused on empowering the youth delegates who attended. The ambassador of Romania, Simona Miculescu, emphasized important qualities that are bubbling in youth: “their vision, their intelligence, their creativity, and their determination” – all fundamental aspects of a leader who can create positive change through “developing new ideas, technology, and content.” She called us brave “warriors” who should develop the skills to effectively communicate our positive messages, and harness our creativity in global problem solving. We have a “burden on [our] beautiful, young shoulders” to transform society because our generation has the knowledge, and the world, just under our finger-tips – on our iPads, and iPhones; we should use these resources, as well as our inner qualities to bring about social change. Sam Vaghar, who created the Millennium Campus Network, is an example of how age is not a barrier to accomplishing our goals and making a difference. He emphasized that “every voice matters,” that we are not alone, that we are united together in our aims and actions for a better world– just as rich and poor nations gather at the UN to resolve crises. If we have an idea, he said, we shouldn’t wait until we’re older, but we have to do it now. He gave us important advice: “Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone – to look at those above you and ask for help, to start listening.”

Many universal values were highlighted at this conference, peace being a main quality the world needed to embrace. However, Ahmad Alhendawi – UN Special Envoy for the Youth – said that it should not be a “political peace,” but a “global culture of peace” where this quality touches hearts, and minds, where this quality becomes a unifying factor between all people. He accentuated that it is important to “protect” and “promote” the universal values by bringing them into schools and universities. An organization called Rock Your World combines academia with values; they nurture the values of love, equality, and peace into young minds as a way to deter future global conflicts, and balance information with the practical attitudes required to transform the world. After all, as Sam Vaghar said, activism is a “personal expression of love.” Daniel Bena – head of Global Sustainable Development of Pepsico – said the “inner framework of leadership” is possessing “values and conscience.” Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury stressed that to eliminate new injustice, discrimination, division, and mistrust, we must learn how to appreciate the differences that trigger conflict: “There should be an inner oneness, and an outer diversity.” A culture of peace will be generated once the mindset of human beings shifts from force and violence to reason and understanding.

In the workshop “I want to make a change, now what?” Najeed Kassam – creator of Networks for Change – emphasized the process to turning words into actions.
1. Find inspiration through experiences
2. Write it down on a blog or facebook or a diary. Do this to clarify your thoughts.
3. Read, read, read. Look at other people’s perspective, and find where you stand as a human being.
4. Think of a solution.
5. Find an organization or start your own. Collaboration with other organizations creates a better exchange of ideas. Hurl yourself into it – get involved! Take leadership roles within the organization.
6. Measure Impact
8. Get mentorship – whether it’s from your mom, aunt, teacher, anyone who is experienced.

Young people today have the power to change the world like never before: they have access to not only information, but also the whole world through social media. However, many parts of the world are disconnected from this global unity because of “poor infrastructure,” devastating poverty, and unsteady electricity, Dr. Josephine Ojiambo – former Ambassador of Kenya – said. She emphasized that we need to bridge this “digital divide,” in order for the “global aspirations” of young people to be heard, for youth to have influence in political policy, in “shaping the future they want.” The Soccket , a soccer ball played for half an hour which charges a phone, solar panel, and BioLite Stove, a stove that charges a phone while cooking, are examples of technology that creative youth leaders invented in order to “close and fill-in the gaps,” of the disconnection between small communities and their world. One of the leaders of the Google Plus team shared the value of social media: the readily accessible information that allows youth to come up with answers to challenging questions, the “ability to understand” the perspectives of different cultures and philosophy, the “communication” between people across the world in a click of a button, the “collaboration” on new ideas and projects that seek to address problems of the global world. However, there are many disadvantages to social media as well: unequal access, false and misleading information, government abuse, and lack of face-to-face interaction. The panelists stressed that social media is a “tool” not a substitute for social change. Action is necessary and required to transform injustice.

Youth unemployment is another issue. Mariel Davis – manager of the Communications and Special Projects at Education for Employments – says there is a “disconnect” between what is taught in universities, and what skills are needed for jobs. Universities teach rote memorization and information, while the skills needed for jobs are “creativity, critical thinking, and practical knowledge.“ These qualities should be taught in schools to eliminate youth unemployment.

But how do we communicate our messages effectively? Bill Oberlander – the managing director of Marketing Communication and Events – says the message, or advice needs to be “brutally simple” because the world is already filled with “complexity.” This short, “moving story” should be pushed through complex media channels like instagram, facebook, television, radio, twitter, and youtube.

However, in many countries, a phone is considered the property of a man, prohibited for use by women; they are prevented from sharing their ideas, and gathering knowledge. The panelists at the Global Networking session said that developing important applications for women to have such as applications that will send warnings when gangs or militas are nearing the house. Men would want women to have the app to protect the children, and to protect the family.

Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, says that the youth need to “”address the structure of gender inequality” by changing old mindsets and stereotypes. She wants the youth to “tap” into their unlimited potential, to “invest in their dreams of promoting human rights.” She saw that at the Youth Assembly there was more women than men, and she emphasized the importance of bringing “women forward,” to “support them,” because their keen interest is to empower their world. Women are denied education, reproductive rights of the body, access to land and resources, and a voice in decision making. Youth need to “break this cycle.” In homes, politics, and society, measures need to be adopted that will support women and girls. After the Commission on the Status of Women, she noticed 3 important aspects of injustice against women that needed to be addressed:
1. End violence against women and girls by giving them personal security, safety, and integrity.
2. Choice: Give women access to resources so they can contribute to their environment.
3. Voice participation and leadership: Government should be held accountable for women to possess a stronger voice in the household, private sector, and public institutions.

The first way they plan on eliminating violence against women is by preventing it – by changing the mindset that women are “objects,” and can be “possessed.” By giving women education, and economic empowerment, women will begin to fight for their rights, and be “valued in their community.” Then, they plan on protecting women by creating “safe city programs” where law officials enforce safety for women. They also want to provide every country with universal access to critical emergency services such as a “hot line, one stop crisis center, medical support, and police to take down the complaint.”

Giving youth the information, the tools, and the qualities to combat global conflicts is essential for world transformation. Youth need to be empowered, inspired, and united in their creative ideas for change to ripple through people’s lives.

The qualities emphasized at the UN are qualities that need to be explored and expressed by youth. I notice there is a tendency to focus all attention on fixing people, and fixing the world. By doing so, we neglect the famous saying that “when I change, the world changes.” Priority should lie on “fixing” and “healing” the self by restoring an imperishable understanding of our intrinsic qualities. Once we establish this awareness, the expression of these qualities will surge into the world, into our interactions, and create the peace that we feel to be outside of us. Changing the world starts with the self. Once we become examples of goodness, our friends, and family will slowly and gradually follow this process, then the message, the pure wishes we hold for the world, and our actions will create a lasting impact on our world.

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