The journey of a 16-year-old Seychellois youth at the UN Youth Assembly |11 July 2018
United Nations (UN) Youth Seychelles is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) whose main focus is to create access to UN opportunities for youth and to promote the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs).
One such opportunity is the UN Youth Assembly (YA) – an international platform where youths from around the globe come together and obtain the opportunity to engage in discussions and stimulate new ideas in ways to achieve a sustainable future for all. Through such an initiative, youth are also empowered and connected with different partners to materialise their projects.
According to the president of UN Youth Seychelles, Annarose Clarisse, the UN Youth Assembly is an initiative that has existed for over 11 years but it is only since 2016 that Seychelles youth have participated.
She adds that the UN realised that this generation will be key drivers for the SDGs, hence why it is important that Seychellois youth also be part of this platform.
As UN Youth Seychelles prepares to send another local delegation of youth to the UNYA in August this year, Victoria Gao, who recently turned 17 years old, a Seychellois student at International School Seychelles (ISS), shares her personal experience as one of the 8 delegates from Seychelles at the UNYA in August 2017.
Q: What inspired your decision to participate in the UNYA?
A: I have always been influenced by my surrounding flora and fauna and I am a member of several NGOs, including UN Youth Seychelles and Small Island Development States Youth AIMS Hub – Seychelles (SYAH) to help contribute towards the preservation of the environment.
My decision to apply to take part in the UNYA last year was based on the following opportunities that I felt the assembly would afford me:
- The ability to disprove the stereotyping of members in small island nations like Seychelles being associated with having tunnel vision
- To learn more about the various issues that people my own age are facing across the world
- Ability to raise awareness among youth in Seychelles to encourage them to implement SDGs locally
- Share my knowledge and experience obtained at the assembly and in Seychelles with local NGOs.
Q: What did the preparation process involve?
A: The application and preparation processes required me to answer questions about the SDGs and my involvement with them. Application fees amounted to approximately United States Dollar (USD) 3,300 and Seychellois citizens must apply for a US visa. As the air fares are an additional R25,000, I sought sponsorship from a company who was willing to fund my trip through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) tax payments.
Q: Tell us about your experience in the USA?
A: The first part of the trip landed us in New Jersey where our delegation stayed at the Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florham Campus for three nights. After being greeted and presented with our necessities such as documents and toiletries, we were given a guided campus tour.
During our stay, we met with our assigned peer mentor who guided us with our sustainable development project which we had been working on for a month together prior to our arrival in the US and which we had to present to a group of judges.
We also attended lectures on social entrepreneurship and visited Novartis Corporation – a pharmaceutical giant in the industry where we attended a formal presentation followed by a questions/answers session led by the corporate head.
(ii) Conferences & workshops at the UN headquarters
In New York, we stayed at Pace University dormitory which is located in the heart of lower Manhattan. During this part of the trip, we mainly visited the UN headquarters to attend the UNYA where we were initially given a guided tour and attended the YA official opening ceremony with other youth leaders.
We attended many conferences and workshop panels at the UN on subjects such as ‘Empowering youth to take action on the Global Refugee Crisis’, ‘Out with exclusion, in with Rights’ and ‘Environment, Poverty and an Inclusive Green Economy’ as well as other revolving social, environmental, economic and youth discussions. It was an amazing experience to be able to visit there and I was absolutely awed by the surreal experience. I had this feeling of being closer to something bigger, I truly felt I should thrive to accomplish more. I was riveted by my surroundings and the innovative youth leaders around me. That very same hall, where Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, where Fidel Castro gave his infamous 4-hour speech on the ‘philosophy of robbery’, where numerous remarkable events that had led to lasting impacts on our lives, and there I was, standing in the heart of all that.
It was absolutely mind opening and engrossing. I was exposed to many topics and issues that I was not aware of before and it was like an abrupt wake up call to me that 16 years of living and yet I knew so little about matters that should be brought to everyone’s attention. I was compelled to find out more about the topics of discussion and it made me realise how important it is for the youths of today to be aware, be expressive of their views on world matters and avoid having tunnel vision, as it is us that will shape the future.
(iii) Visits to various organisations in Washington
As part of our stay in Washington DC, we visited the UN Association (UNA) of the USA and attended a seminar here where we were enlightened on the missions of the UNA-USA. We also attended seminars at ‘Sustainable DC’ where we learnt about the organisation’s plans for sustainability, climate adaptation, as well as their energy and waste programme. We also visited the World Bank and the IRF.
Q: What are your visions for the youth in Seychelles?
A: I would like young people to be more aware of global issues, to voice their opinions and act. Even small actions together create a momentum and therefore the youth need to be encouraged to use their knowledge to help shape a more inclusive society and implement the SDGs for a more sustainable future.
UN Youth Seychelles welcomes anyone between the ages of 16 – 28 who is well versed about SDGs and is interested to join the delegation in August this year, to contact them. They cannot however, directly sponsor anyone to attend but individuals may seek companies to support or fund their trip.
UN Youth Seychelles is committed to making arrangements for the group, to train/prepare them for Seychelles representation, to lobby for group discounts, make necessary arrangements for flight bookings, visa interviews in Mauritius and individual applications for the conference.
For those interested or for further information, message UN Youth Seychelles on facebook or call us 2532 145 or send us an email email@example.com so that we may assist you.