Where should I start?
Okay! Let me start by telling you something that I never told anyone about, a little secret!
Curious for a little secret? Here it goes! So I was very worried when I got the chance to participate in the 2nd Pan African Youth Forum in Ethiopia. I have never been outside my country. I kept asking myself how will life be when I’m out of my country? The day arrived and together with my fellow youth delegates we arrived safely in Addis. It turned out to be the most amazing and special experience that has ever happened in my life. I felt like I was home. People were so kind and very welcoming.
You are probably asking yourself what is this 2nd Pan African Youth Forum?
This was a forum that brought together young people across the African continent to co-create solutions to problems young people in Africa face. It took place at the African Union Headquarters from 24-27 April 2019. It was themed “African Youth Unite for Action – Bridging the Gap and Reaching out to Young Africans". You can check out this link for more details about the forum or learn more about my experience below.
The uniqueness of the forum
Of all the forums that I happen to attend, this one was one of the best and most unique. Why? I’ll tell you why.
Focusing on solution: I’m sure many of you have heard enough about challenges facing young people, they are nearly the same everywhere. I don’t even want to name them because they are so common. This forum had set all of its agenda into discussing the way forward. How can we help to better the current situation? Young people were in forefront of these discussions.
Networking: Because it was my first experience out of my country, I took time out of planned sessions to exchange thoughts with some participants from different countries. I shared my experience and truly learned a lot on what African Youth are doing. We are thirsty for action, very powerful, creative and doing amazing projects out there.
Inclusiveness: The forum brought together youth from different backgrounds. I remember meeting young people with disabilities, who are often left out of these kind of forums. But here, they came, engaged and contributed their views.
Wait… there is a part I almost forget to tell you…
Have you ever come across a room, where people speak a language that you didn't know? How did you feel? You felt like you were left out, right?
So this forum never left out its attendees, it was inclusive because it had translators for people who did not understand the language being spoken in the room.
Some important words I picked from the forum
“What you are doing that brought you here, is adding value. Continue the good work” a participant said.
This made me reflect on the work that I do in my country and the work of every single young person that I met during the forum. It’s true that we are adding value to the work that we do. Sometimes we don’t get recognised or face a number of challenges, but I’m telling you, as long as it’s adding value stick to it. Let it count to the lives of people you serve, innovate and let it scale and benefit more people who are in need.
“There is disconnection of the work we do on the ground.” This can be read as a simple statement, but I’m telling you it carries a big message in it. I have noticed it in my country, there are a number of youth-led organisations that deliver their work by competing with one another. I think this is selfish. It’s time to bring our efforts together.
“The youth of this world hold the key for a better future for all, let’s make sure they are well equipped to use that key”. This was said by the Representative of UNICEF to the African Union, Dr. Eddie Addai.
What I learned/key take home
I was very inspired and I’m glad I was among the delegates. My fellow delegates and I, have responsibility to give back to the society.
Speaking of responsibility, I plan to work with different organizations to establish more chances that will help young people to work through volunteering. This will help them to contribute to sustainable development and gain experience that will qualify them into a competitive job market.
I remember the Director of GIZ African Union Office Dr. Inge Baumgarten said “Voluntary youth engagement for sustainable development, opens new horizons and skills” I strongly agree with her, I believe there is no better way of achieving sustainable development, other than volunteerism. Young people are passionate about contributing to development. For most of those I met, money is not their priority. The feeling that they contribute something valuable into their community, is what they value most.
This experience would not have been so special, without the close support I received from UNICEF colleagues and the AU team. I can’t write a list of all of them, but I’ll always treasure their care and support. I hope more young people will be provided with this kind of opportunity.