By Batool O. Barody
Over the last couple of months, I had the pleasure to be part of the team that organized and hosted the OpenGov Digital Youth Summit, which focused on youth engagement to make governments more accountable during the pandemic. The goal of the summit was to bring together governments, youth and civil society organizations to apply the principles of transparency, accountability, and participation in Covid-19 response and recovery. As a youth advocate and a member of the OpenGov Youth Collective, I served as a point of contact for two sessions – ‘International Organizations as a Bridge Between Youth and Governments’, led by the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR), and ‘Bridging the Cyber Skills Gap for Non-Traditional Talent’ , led by the Global Shapers Community at the Montreal hub.
The CCGHR, which is an organization founded on the principle of health equity, contributed to the discussion on the importance of the role of international organizations as a bridge between youth and governments during pandemics. As Students and Young Professionals Network representatives, Christine Saleeb and I facilitated an in-depth discussion with our three guest speakers: Dr. Yipeng Ge from the University of Ottawa, Gertrude Omoro from Pivot Canada, and Erick Carreras from Vancouver Coastal Health. The session looked at how we can ensure active engagement of young people in civic and public spaces amidst global pandemics, and how civil society organizations can address issues faced by today’s youth and ensure that the voices of marginalized communities – such as young girls – are reflected in the relevant policies targeted towards Covid-19 response and recovery. Youth from across the world participated in the session. The Summit provided a great opportunity for the CCGHR to take part in important discussions and bring the voices of Canadian youth to an international platform.
The Global Shapers Community session provided new insights to participants on global cybersecurity. Kathy Liu, Felicia Sangare, Antoine Audet, Omer Aziz Khan, Hannah Ballard, Mithula Logeswarn and Paula Sahyoun facilitated skill-based workshops with interactive sessions including polls and breakout rooms. Their innovative way of delivering new information empowered youth in the decision-making processes by leveraging the skills mapping tool to walk young leaders through the diversity of cybersecurity roles, and by showing how to maximize the value of the existing non-IT skills in cybersecurity.
In both the sessions, I worked closely with the summit organizers and the session hosts to make sure we brought people together from diverse backgrounds. We were able to secure panels with 50% female and gender minority speakers, 50% under the age of 30, and 50% from the geographic area of the sessions’ focus.
In the planning, organizing and execution of this summit, I developed an in-depth appreciation of the role of young people especially when it comes to ensuring the accountability of our governments. I believe this summit has helped young people, who are all exploring different ways to engage during the pandemic, stay connected and coordinated in their actions. This summit was also a great virtual venue for me to connect with other youth from around the world, expanding my professional network and learning from their perspectives.
Although we were from different countries, we managed to embrace our differences and work in harmony. This experience has helped me grow personally by looking for ways to channel my ideas into actions to bring about positive change. It has reaffirmed my belief that young people are capable of bringing significant change through unified action.
As a member of the Canadian Member of Parliament Karina Gould’s Youth Council, I will use this experience to advocate on behalf of the youth worldwide to ensure that my government – the Canadian government- is more accountable towards its commitment to the youth’s active participation in the decision-making process, especially during times of global emergencies.