Empowering Young People – Impressions from #9CYMM
The 9th Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting brought together established and emerging leaders from around the globe to share good practices, forge new partnerships and agree shared priorities for resourcing youth development. Two Melton Fellows joined the high-level summit and are eager to share their story!
written by Sanchita Vishwa
The 9th Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting (9CYMM), took place in Kampala, Uganda from 31st July – 4th August 2017. Under the theme ‘Resourcing and Financing Youth Development: Empowering Young People’, the event focused on unfolding critical resources and building blocks necessary to achieve tangible results for young people.
I had the incredible opportunity to attend as a youth delegate representing the Melton Foundation, along with Nana Ama Akuffo-Kwapong from Ashesi University. The program included the Ministers’ Meeting (2nd-4th Aug), a Youth Leaders Forum (31st July -1st Aug), and a Youth Sector Stakeholders Forum (31st July -1st Aug), all of which we were lucky to be a part of.
Our week in Uganda began with us traveling around Kampala, to soak in the rich history and culture. After a harrowing, intense visit to the Uganda Martyrs museum which detailed the struggle of Ugandans who shed their blood because of their Christian faith, we went on to explore the culture of Buganda, the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day Uganda.
The scorching heat did not water down our excitement as we reached the Kasubi Tombs. A burial grounds for kabakas (kings of Buganda), the site is of great spiritual and political significance for the Ganda people, as well as an important example of traditional architecture. As we strolled across the vast expanse, we were intrigued and eager to learn more about Bugandan history. After this enriching glimpse into past- and present-day Uganda, we returned to the city of Munyonyo on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, elated to start our preparation on ground, for the summit!
Inspiration wafted in the humid air, and we couldn’t help but be in awe of how cheerful, colorful and lively the atmosphere was! The mesmerizing opening ceremony of the 9CYMM featured traditional Ugandan music and dances, and power packed speeches by the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and Katherine Ellis, Former Director of the Youth Division of the Commonwealth.
When I look back, I remember one particular sentence the Commonwealth Secretary-General said:
“Never be frightened to be the first!”
The opening night was truly magical. Having exhilarating conversations with true Global Citizens and meeting numerous Ministers from countries across the Commonwealth, the beauty of Lake Victoria, and the sounds of insects calling out in the darkness amidst lush greenery had us thankful for such little joys in life. With empowered thoughts and the will to start making change coursing through our veins, that night made us realize that age should never be a restricting factor once you have put your mind into something.
The next three mornings, after scrumptious breakfasts, Beryl and I headed out to attend the Stakeholder’s Forum and the Youth Leaders’ Forum respectively. My experience at the Youth Leaders’ Forum was intellectually stimulating. Every panel and conversation was brimming with creativity, diverse and sometimes even unusual, thoughts and prospective solutions. The topics discussed were myriad and diverse – from ocean sustainability and saving forest ecosystems to governments funding youth development activities.
Through it all, we worked in breakout sessions to identify pressing issues young people around the world are facing in order to develop a list of recommendations to be presented to the policy makers at the Ministerial Meeting later. The breakout session on making Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) more accessible to young people was a particularly enriching and based on my educational background and my experience in working with young people across the globe, I was able to contribute several points to the list of recommendations, some of which were taken forward by Ministers of the 52 Commonwealth countries.
This was when I actually realized how much being with the Melton Foundation had impacted me. The fellowship transformed me into thinking and acting like a Global Citizen and I understood how much of an edge that gave me, in this highly competitive and cut-throat world around us.
That night, we were invited to a reception to mark the start of CYPAN- Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network. Overlooking glistening Lake Victoria, we listened as statistics of domestic violence and violence against children came our way and came to realize again that a lot of the world still considers violence as the answer, when in reality, it never is. In a heartening response, everyone took a pledge to stop violence, in all its forms, to the best of our abilities, by symbolically signing on a picturesque board with art depicting the need for peace around the world.
My experience at the 9CYMM was the first of its kind. It was the embodiment of the power of youth in policy making, and it made me feel like I mattered, that my decisions and choices have the potential to affect all of our future generations. It was a holistic experience, that created the opportunity for dynamic interaction, knowledge sharing and exchange of experiences by all the main stakeholders in youth development and empowerment.
Set in beautiful Kampala, I cannot thank the Melton Foundation enough for giving me this wonderful opportunity, that helped expand my mental horizons and restored my faith in my abilities. I am also grateful to the Commonwealth Youth Division for the invitation to join such an incredible conference.