The United Nations International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding commenced in August. PPSEAWA’s Youth Ambassador Program is a great example of our organization’s commitment to get more young women involved in decision-making at the highest levels.
The position of Youth Ambassador came about three years ago, when a resolution was passed at the International Conference in New Zealand. Country presidents submitted candidates for this position at the Mid-Council meeting in Hawaii, and subsequently, three Youth Ambassadors were elected in October of 2008 by the International Council based on geographical representation: Angela Lee from PPSEAWA Fiji, Kate Morioka from PPSEAWA Australia, and Akari Yamada from PPSEAWA-USA. Youth ambassadors are ex-officio members of the International Council, who serve as advisors on matters relating youth.
We had two major duties during our first term of office: to prepare a Plan of Action (POA) with initiatives and activities for the purpose of attracting and retaining young women in the organization, and to assist in the development of the youth component of International Conference in Bali. The Plan of Action for Younger Members was the result of several lively discussions between 2008-09, as well as a survey conducted during the Bali conference itself in 2010. During the survey, each national association was asked to assess the state of youth membership within their country, identify issues and barriers to youth involvement, and come up with opportunities to improve recruitment and retention of younger women. Most member associations only have less than a handful of young members aged 40 years and under (ranging from 1-5% of total membership). The POA also includes a working plan that identifies tasks and priorities through the year 2013. Angela, Kate, and I submitted the POA in July, and it is currently under review by the Council’s Executive Committee.
We worked on separate projects between 2009-10 related to the Millennium Development Goals promoted by PPSEAWA-International. Kate, who runs her own consultancy business in social planning, shared a toolkit she developed for the Australian National Commission for UNESCO to raise awareness of these goals for Pacific Youth. Angela and I coordinated projects for our national associations related to Goal 3: Gender Equality, under the guidance of Conference Programme Development Convener Ravesi Johnston. My local chapter, the Chicago Chapter, developed a project to encourage a key component of equality - leadership skills - in adolescent girls. We hosted an essay contest at an inner-city, college preparatory school for girls chosen by Rebeca Massey, our current Chicago President. We awarded monetary prizes for their participation in school and community organizations, and asked that 10 per cent of the prize money for the top two prizes be donated back to the organization of their choice. Angela, who is an in-service trainer with the Ministry of Education in Fiji, participated in a program to improve access to basic education in remote and poverty-stricken areas. They provided literacy skills and vocational training, mostly in sewing, for women who were unable to complete their primary education. Angela and I also served as speakers during the MDG 3 Workshop in Bali on May 19, 2010.
Furthermore, we developed the Youth Session for the Bali Conference entitled “Young Women, Our Future.” More on that later.
Youth attendance at this International Conference would not have been possible without support from national associations and the International Council. Several countries including our hosts in Indonesia as well as South Korea and Thailand brought young delegates who could not have otherwise afforded their travel expenses. Angela, Kate, and Anny received scholarships from the PPSEAWA’s Young Women’s Fund so they could attend this conference. Anny did double duty - she was a speaker in Bali and the sole representative from Pakistan. Since her Conference experience, Anny has consented to serve on the By-Laws Committee with Chairperson Lillian Jasko, another USA member. Special thanks really should go to Lillian, as a partner in the creation of the Young Women’s Fund!
Our Second Term
Angela, Kate, and I were appointed to a second term as Youth Ambassadors this past spring. Let me share a little of what we are working on… To attract new members under 25 years, we emphasize the benefits that PPSEAWA can offer. We believe that PPSEAWA’s close relationship with the United Nations makes the organization attractive for young women so we are trying to offer spaces in delegations to conferences. In September, PPSEAWA sent a delegation to the UN/DPI Conference on Advancing Global Health in Melbourne, Australia. Kate worked with PPSEAWA Australia, especially UN Officer Pam Rhemrev, to secure funds for a youth delegate named Sitarih Saili. Sita as she known is 17 years old and is currently studying for Bachelor of Applied Science in Microbiology/Biotechnology. The roundtable discussions really helped Sita to understand the role that NGOs play in promoting health-related MDGS. Her favorite moment was attending the Pacific Island Forum. Consequently, Sita joined PPSEAWA Australia and gave several presentations about her experiences.