What an incredible day. Today was the youth pre-conference where young leaders gathered from around the globe to discuss meaningful youth engagement on issues surrounding girls and women. There were several amazing panels and speakers, but what spoke to me most was having personal interactions with people from around the globe. During the breakout workshop we sat in tables with young people who are also attending the conference. Just at my table were three women from Sudan, one woman from Kyrgyzstan, one woman from Mongolia and a man from Uganda. The topics that each of these leaders focused on was unique to their country and background. The man from Uganda organizes flash mobs to raise awareness about contraception and another woman was a medical student in Sudan. She was talking about the pressure from her parents to become a practicing doctor, but she would rather go into public health policy. This is something that almost all teenagers go through. Even though we are from opposites sides of the globe, we connected in a very personal way, and this was incredible to be a part of. The work these young leaders are doing in their countries makes a real and tangible impact, and being witness to that change was an amazing experience.
The first panel began around 10 and consisted of six wonderful individuals. Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, was one of the speakers at this panel, and she really stood out. A lot of people enjoyed listening to her responses to the questions. I did, for I thought she was the realest one up there. Her ideas were a little unrealistic, but they were rich of quality and pertained to the issue at hand. She kept saying “hashtag hand it over,” which was a brilliant slogan for what she believed about giving power to the younger generation. She said, “Youth need to be brought to the table. The old world needs to stop telling the new world what to do.” That quote enhanced her response and kept me engaged. Her central focus was to bring together youth and human rights.