Blog by Ayushi Kundu, Soroptimist International (SI) President’s Appeal Coordinator, 2019-2021 and President-Elect and Friendship Link Chair of SI Calcutta, 2021-2022.
“Being a Soroptimist means waking up each day to new opportunities knocking at your door. Such an occasion arose for me a couple of months ago, when SI Advocacy Director Bev Bucur suggested that I apply as a representative of Soroptimist International to the UNESCO NGO Liaison Committee’s Call for Youth Engagement. The NGO Liaison Committee’s work is to follow the day-to-day grassroots activities of all its member NGOs (Non-governmental organisations), and incorporate them in the work of UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
The Committee was looking for Youth Leaders from across the world to come together, and at the first meeting, representatives of the Liaison Committee would lead a call to consult, with NGOs representatives under 30 years old, and discuss what is the best approach to include young people meaningfully in their organisation’s regular operations.
SI President Sharon Fisher, SI Advocacy Director Bev Bucur, SI Representative in Paris Marie-Christine Gries, and SI Global Policy Coordinator Francesca Fletcher Williams came together to help me prepare my application. Their timely advice, suggestions and much more ensured that Soroptimist International had a seat secured at the big table!
The first meeting of the NGO Liaison Committee with the youth leaders was held on 12 July 2021. In attendance were Mr. David Grosso, the President of the NGO Liaison Committee, along with other senior members of the Committee and almost 60 Youth Leaders from across the world, representing diverse organisations, interests and communities. Everyone was united with one common intention – to facilitate youth advocacy and leadership in NGOs across the world, making sure that young people are given an equal chance in positions of responsibility and decision-making.
On the call, discussions were held on the content of a Position Paper on Youth and Guidelines for Advocacy, which will be presented in time for the 75th anniversary celebrations of UNESCO. The Position Paper will serve as an important document for the NGOs in official partnership, as well as the Liaison Committee Youth Strategy, to maintain young people engaged and contributing to a plural dialogue.
Shortly after the meeting, the young representatives were requested to indicate in what capacity they would like to contribute to the Position Paper. My personal preference was to lead the Drafting Committee during the making of the initial draft. Dr. Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar, representing the Ramakrishna Mission, and I were selected as Co-Leaders of the Drafting Committee. Incidentally, both of us hail from India, and over the course of the past few weeks, have been able to grow a close friendship. Working together has given us both a lot of perspectives on the workings of other organisations and the common need to involve young people from around the world in decision-making and leadership positions within these organisations.
So far, the Drafting Committee has met twice to discuss the various suggestions and recommendations that need to be included on the Position Paper. These discussions have been very fruitful, and based on them, a rough draft for the Position Paper has been drawn up, and is currently undergoing changes. We expect to have the First Draft ready by early September.
I wish to thank Soroptimist International for giving me this chance and exposure to advocacy work, and the opportunity to work with Youth Leaders around the world. This has helped me gain a lot of ideas on more meaningful participation of young people in their organisation, and I hope to be able to translate these ideas into the world of Soroptimism!”
For more information on UNESCO’s 75th Anniversary and the NGO Liaison Committee’s Call for Youth Engagement, please visit HERE.