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Commonwealth Youth Forum 2022 – Leading the Future

The Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) 2022 took place in Kigali, Rwanda from 19-21 June 2022 under the theme of 'Taking Charge of the Future'. A delegation of Melton Fellows attended the event and came back with experiences that enriched their Global Citizenship skillset and capacity!

Over the course of nearly a week, our delegation participated in dialogues, conversations, networking opportunities, panel discussions by eminent people and exclusively curated tours to understand the significance of youth in addressing global challenges and framing creative solutions!

Key Takeways and Top Insights

After spending nearly four days at the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2022, our Fellows walked away with a fresh set of skills and understanding. Here is a summary of the main takeaways they imbibed :

  • In an attempt to ‘Take Charge of our Future’, youth solutions must be centered around the SDGs and on people and the planet before profit follows.
  • Opportunities should be given to youths with disabilities and space should be made for them to feel included and speak up for themselves.
  • We need fewer speeches and more action – young people must find their passions around their stories and create their “WHY” in the communities they find themselves in.
  • Diversity and Inclusion is important to leverage human capital to explore everyone’s unique strength.
  • Organizations must pivot to green funding i.e. supporting projects that are environmentally friendly and sustainable for the future.
  • Involving youth in action advocacy and decision making gives power to our collective labels and roles.

Starting on the right foot!

The very first day of the Conference took our Fellows to two plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and an intercultural dinner! The plenary sessions were based on the theme of the event (‘Taking charge of the future’) and ‘reimagining sustainability’. The breakout session, on the other hand, served to engage the participants wholly in the ideational process and simultaneously discuss the relationship between youth and human capital, governance and the role of law and several such topics. These activities provoked thoughtful considerations that pondered on the importance of diversity and inclusivity. Similarly, the pivotal role played by organizations like the Melton Foundation was underscored, finding expression in ideas like green funding and action advocacy. Drawing curtains upon the day was the intercultural dinner which celebrated Rwanda’s rich culture and brought like-minded, motivated peers together!

Youth-led Action for sustainable impact

The second day’s activities were primarily located at the Intare Conference Arena. This day witnessed vibrancy and deep deliberations in equal measure, covering three plenary sessions, two youth action lab sessions, the Launch of Youth Led Initiatives, and a fireside chat! The three plenary sessions revolved around: “Youth Championing Innovation for Sustainability and Transformation,” Co-creation and Partnerships,” and “The Economic Imperative.” The highlight of this day was the Youth Action Lab. These labs provided an eclectic mix of thematic options to choose from, with human capital, entrepreneurship, and healthcare – all finding a mention. 

Our delegates each belonged to a different youth action lab. Interestingly, each one of them, along with a team, claimed the chance to work on a unique problem statement and solution, creating in the process ideational blueprints like “Commonwealth Refugee Youth Leadership Training Program,” “creation of carbonized charcoal briquettes” to name a few. Additionally, the Two Youth Led Initiatives that were launched on this day include Alliance for Action against HPV and Commonwealth Youth Taskforce for HPV Awareness and Cervical Cancer Elimination.

The Youth Action Labs sessions were followed by a fireside chat with CEOs of leading organizations working in the sphere of education. They offered deep insights, encouraging the audience to be value driven, remain resilient, and practice self-care while committing to being lifelong learners. Another highlight of day two was the closing activity of the day, an address to the Youth by Hon Emma Inamutila, Deputy Minister of Information and Technology, Namibia. Being the youngest person to have ever been elected minister in Africa, she exhorted the youth :

“We should not quit, but rest, pivot, and try again.”

Engineering change and generating capacity

The third day began with Capacity Building Sessions which dealt with sustainable business solutions, meaningful participation, open-source leadership etc. The closing ceremony witnessed edifying speeches. The Minister of Youth, Rosemary Mbabazi, paraphrased the words of Honorable Paul Kagame’s words, “If you are not on the high table, you are the menu,” to encourage the youths to work hard to get to the top. The second speech was by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth – Patricia Scotland, who quoted :

“You have as much power as you take”

Prime Minister of Rwanda – Mr. Édouard Ngirente, and Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) Chairperson –  Kim Allen also pitched in with some key takeaways for the participants. 

The tour journeys that the Melton Fellows embarked upon were designed to showcase the cultural landscape of Rwanda while sensitizing them to the deeper implications of peace and sustainability. As our Fellow shares, “Rwanda is a living and thriving testimony of how resilience, pure determination, accountability, and inclusion can transform a country to be one of the major reference points for what African development is all about.” A visit to the parliament building and museum and later, Nyamirambo Women’s Center, also brought forth success stories of women empowerment.

Culmination of the CYF Week!

To conclude, the Commonwealth Youth Forum, held parallelly with the CHOGM , provided the pristine opportunity to Melton Fellows and other delegates to build intercultural networks and interact with passionate changemakers, ideate on youth-led projects that sought to solve global issues of major concern, develop a strategic framework to influence policy-making and continue to campaign for youth advocacy!