Hear us out, before the transmission is lost!
By Tee Shiao Eek
KUALA LUMPUR, 26 April 2009 – The eight young men and women on stage promised that they would make it rain in the auditorium, and they did.
As they started snapping their fingers softly, urging the 200-odd members of the audience to follow suit, it sounded like the soft patter of rain was falling around the room. Then they began rubbing their hands together and stamping their feet on the floor, creating the swishing sounds of water and imitating the claps of thunder.
The students of the International Canadian Pre-University (ICPU) program at Taylor’s University College had promised that they would make it rain, and they created a thunderstorm. It was a fascinating display that symbolised the spirit of cooperation and used a creative platform to express their feelings about serious issues, such as climate change.
This activity was simply a prelude to the exciting workshops and discussions that were to follow, as part of the Taylor’s University College ICPU ‘Hear Us Out II’, a global issues conference by youth for youth.
Youths champion rights
“The conference was organised with the support of UNICEF under the auspices of CRC@20, which marks 20 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted worldwide,” said Mr Youssouf Oomar, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei.
“For UNICEF, there is nothing more fitting to celebrate 20 years of the CRC than to have young people realise their rights to participate and express themselves about global issues that affect their lives and their futures,” he said in praise of the event that was put together by 47 committed and enthusiastic World Issues students, who ranged in age from 18 to 20-something.
This freedom to participate is a result of 20 years of hard work by countries and child rights advocates to turn rights into reality for children and young people around the world.
“With these rights, come responsibilities. You have been given the right to an education, to receive healthcare and to participate. Now you are responsible for sharing your knowledge as a global citizen and for creating change that will make your world – our world – a better place,” Mr Youssouf expressed his plea to the students during his keynote address.
“Often, it is the voice of the younger generation that gets left out in solving world issues. In reality, many young people are concerned about the issues facing this world we occupy and its future. We have ideas on how to conquer poverty, terrorism, deforestation and global warming, we just need to be heard,” said Anamika Deb, 23, one of the conference organisers, who is an international student from Bangladesh.
One world, our world
During one of the workshops on ‘Water Deficits’, 30 students attempted to carry five-gallon water tanks around the room, to simulate the conditions faced by people in “water poor” countries like Ethiopia and Kenya. After this exercise, they pledged personal actions towards conserving water in their daily lives.
In another workshop, the students debated how to protect children’s rights to nutritious food, shelter and education during economic crises and natural disasters.
The workshops, conducted by the students with the support of NGOs like Malaysian AIDS Council, Malaysian Child Resources Institute and Amnesty International, focused on 20 global issues highlighted in the book ‘High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them’, by Jean-Francois Rischard.
“These issues pose the greatest threat to our world and will have severe consequences if we do not attempt to make changes,” said 18 year-old Lim Dominique Jo.
For Siti Syazwani bt Pauzi, 18, organising a workshop about an issue might seem a small contribution, but she knows she has made a difference by helping to spread the word.
“When I hear my students discuss and debate the difficult issues facing the world, I actually sleep better at night, because knowing the future is in their hands puts my mind at ease,” said Ms Elizabeth Christie, ICPU World Issues lecturer and advisor to the students for the conference.
Finding the love“The feeling of all 200 youth pulling together for a common goal, a better world, was the most encouraging and surprising lesson of all. A real sense of global citizenship was established – it was a powerful and positive feeling,” said Anamika.
Her friend, 18 year-old Chua Syn Dee, chipped in: “New friendships were made and ties became stronger throughout the conference. We were a huge family of friends, and it became clear to me how the world needs this kind of friendship the world in order to achieve world peace and global understanding.”
“It was an incredibly positive environment where we found out what we were capable of, where we were encouraged to participate, express ourselves and be respected for our opinions. The conference made us feel like we have the power to make a difference in the world, which is in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Anamika added.
At the end of the conference, the 200 young people stood up together and sang “Where is the Love”, their energy and passion emanating throughout the auditorium.
They sang, in one voice, for love, peace and a better world.