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One Young World Summit 2016: Young Leaders Committed to Making Change

Last week, our Director of Strategic Partnership Accounts—Rezowana Islam—got the opportunity to attend the world’s premier young leaders forum: the One Young World Summit, held this year in our nation’s capital. As an Adecco Delegate, Rezowana was amongst 1,300 attendees from 190 countries. She got to brush shoulders and hear inspiring speeches from other young leaders, Presidents, Nobel Prize Winners, Global business leaders and extraordinary humanitarians. Among those addressing the themes of Environment, Education, Human Rights, Peace & Security, Global Business and Mental Health were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, actor and Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women Emma Watson, Cher, Sir Bob Geldof (the founder of Live Aid), Former Irish President Mary Robinson and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus. Below are Rezowana’s reflections on her stirring experience and the role that young people have to play in implementing solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

rezowana-islamTo say that the One Young World 2016 summit in Ottawa was invigorating, inspiring and encouraging would not suffice. I don’t even know where to begin describing the myriad emotions that ebbed and flowed through me in those 3.5 days at the conference. The Summit took place on the cusp of summer transitioning into fall, and I couldn’t help notice the parallel to the transformation taking place within me.

Prisoners of Hope

The idea behind One Young World is to gather together young people aged 18-30 from all around the world to learn, listen and share their experiences with each other. Co-founded by UK-based Kate Robertson and David Jones, the goal is to make the world a little bit better than it was yesterday, or even a few hours ago. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has referred to himself as a “prisoner of hope” and I think the term is fitting for David and Kate as well.  They truly believe in young people and their ability to make positive changes—and felt compelled to do something about it.

Close to Home

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressing the crowd

This year, Ottawa played host city to the annual Summit and I got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend as an Adecco Delegate. I was among thousands of young Delegates, Counselors and speakers from the worlds of business, politics, entertainment and non-profits. We each came from different walks of life and with different creeds, cultures and languages but all shared the same desire: to make this world a better place today—both for us and for our future generations. At a time when the world appears to be on the brink of catastrophe and hope is desolate, the Summit restored my faith in humanity and lit a torch with a flame that will burn eternally. This Summit made me believe that not only can we create the change we want to see in the world but we can be the change we want to see!

Sages on Stages

The 3.5 days were jam packed with information, talks, breakout sessions and networking opportunities; it felt like the days were never-ending. But the paradox is that our time together was still too short. We listened to stories of ordinary individuals making extraordinary changes and fighting for things they believe in—from climate change to gender equality and fighting extremism. The line of Counselors who took the stage (and in some cases—dedicated one-on-one time) to share their wisdom, encouragement and just to listen to us was nothing short of astounding. Some of this year’s Counselors included Kofi Annan, Sir Bob Geldof, Muhammad Yunis, Mary Robinson, Thuli Medonsela and Emma Watson—to name a few.

(L) Public Protector of South Africa,Thuli Madonsela | (M) Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women Emma Watson discussing the HeForShe Campaign | (R) Former Bolivian President Carlos Mesa

(L) Former Public Protector of South Africa Thuli Madonsela | (M) Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women Emma Watson discussing the HeForShe Campaign | (R) Former Bolivian President Carlos Mesa

The stage was filled with amazing individuals who had the courage to share their stories, trials and tribulations with all of us. I have even started to view the word “courage” differently. To me, courage is no longer about being fearless; it is about feeling scared to death of something but doing it anyway. It’s when you feel that your heart is beating so fast, your throat is closing in and a part of you is saying that you can’t do it—but there is another part with a voice just a little stronger that whispers “you can and you will!”  That is courage!

A Look to the Future

I formed some friendships that will last forever and some connections that will bind us to work together for the causes we hold dear to our hearts. I have reached out to some of the attendees from different countries and time zones to start brainstorming ideas on how we can work to counter extremism—a personal initiative we felt passionate about. I will also be connecting with Adecco’s global HQ in Zurich in the hopes of sharing some ideas that came out of the conference and implementing them into our extensive Corporate Social Responsibilities for all Adecco Colleagues around the world.

Rezowana (middle) with other global Delegates

The ultimate challenge I walked away with is one I want to extend to all Colleagues, Associates, clients and readers: stand for whatever you believe in and work to make the change you want to see. To those who have not found your cause—I urge and encourage you to find what it is and stand for it because “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.

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