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Award opened doors for 2008 Young Leaders’ winner

© UNICEF/2009/Djuhari
M. Iman Usman, Young Leaders Award winner 2008, now UI student.

By Devi Asmarani

JAKARTA, Indonesia 23 July, 2009 -It has been a very busy year for M. Iman Usman since he was named an Indonesian Young Leader in 2008. Asides from leading his own organizations at home in Padang, West Sumatra, he has represented his peer at various world conferences, took part in international competitions and volunteered in more social projects. On top of that, he managed to come out top in his class at the National Exam and get accepted at the prestigious University of Indonesia.

“Doors have definitely opened for me since the Indonesian Youth Leader Award,” he told UNICEF in an interview. “And it’s a way to inspire other kids to do more for the world.” 

In the interview below, he talked more of his passion to participate and what inspires him:

So what has been happening since you won last year’s award?
Since the award I continued as the secretary of Children’s Forum in West Sumatra, but I have now left my position (he has moved to Jakarta ahead of university). And through the organization I founded, the Community of Critical Children of Indonesia, we held the event Stand Up campaign MDGs Millenium Development Goals With The Children in October. I am still active in training other friends who are interested in becoming volunteers in the organization and also I’m trying to find a new generation of leader to replace me there.
I also took part in a one-month exchange student program in Japan with Bina Antar Budaya.

Last Ramadhan month, I had the opportunity to become one of the finalists for Mondialogo World School Contest in China. This is a competition for collaborative projects around the world organized by UNESCO and Daimler. Out of 36,000 kids from 3,200 schools, I was in the top 25 and was named a junior ambassador to promote intercultural dialogue.

I also represented Indonesia in various international conferences. One of them is the Microsoft Regional Innovative Student Forum in May 2009 in Malaysia. In the project competition I won USD 1,000 in funding from Microsoft Asia Pacific to start up a pilot project for kids. The pilot project will focus on education for kids in slum areas, and it will be executed in a few months.

In June, I participated in the World Leadership Conference in Singapore on the environment and economy. And recently I became the UNFPA Youth Advisory Panel. We are the second generation of such panel. The UNFPA chose some teenagers from all over Indonesia to take part in this teen panel, which will give them feedbacks and evaluations on their programs to help make the projects more teen-friendly.

And, of course, I also had to prepare for the National Exam.


© UNICEF/2009/Djuhari
Iman as a jury for 2009 with Purwanta Iskandar from UNICEF, Pardina Pudiastuti From KPP, Maria Hartingsih from Kompas and Budi Harjono from Impact Indonesia.

With all these activities you still had time to study?
Well, I did get the highest NEM (National Examination Score) in Padang, maybe I was just lucky (laughs).

What are you studying in University of Indonesia?
I am taking International Relations. Since I was in 6th grade, I have always wanted to be a diplomat. I think that is where my talent lies and, Alhamdulilah, I got in. But lately I’ve also thought about doing other things like being a social worker. Right now, though, I want to focus on the academic part.  We’ll see whether I end up becoming a diplomat or working for multinational companies or a child rights organization.

Has winning the award helped you in your effort to promote children’s rights?
A lot. The Young Leader award really opens a lot of doors for us. People listen to us, and they don’t just see as ordinary kids. It gives us easier access to advocacy. And it is really a medium to inspire other kids in West Sumatra to do something for the world. It makes them more motivated and driven. I also got a scholarship for my university studies from the West Sumatra governor because of this award.

Have you ever had any disappointments?
Of course there are some disappointments. The government have made policies to observe children’s rights, but we have not seen the impacts directly on the plights of all children. However, I still appreciate what they have done because this is not an easy task. And I would continue to support the government and the community to become better, because the last thing we need to do (when we’re disappointed in something) is to become apathetic.

How do you feel about becoming a judge for the Indonesian Young Leader this year?
I think the biggest difficulty was that I had to judge my own friends. Many of them I had known from participating in National Children’s Forum, and some I had sort of known from my own friends. So I tried to be objective and looked at them from leadership and innovation aspects. I really appreciate what they have accomplished, but I think that many of them had not really presented their leadership enough, that is what I tried to dig from them. I also think that (in order to stand out) they could have packaged themselves better.



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