Youth Involvement: Mentoring the Next Generation

By: Heather Fraser-Harris

WFWPI Internship New York

Among the many exciting changes that the Women's Federation for World Peace, International (WFWPI) has been experiencing, is the generational shifts that have been taking place. When I joined the WFWPI UN team as the Administrator for the UN office based in New York, in October 2014, I was showered with warm welcomes and excited smiles. It's a unique experience to feel needed and wanted in a working environment, and even more so, being a simple recent graduate with a Bachelor's degree and minimal professional experience. However, I am gradually coming to realize that small contributions can actually be part of a much broader phenomenon than we often are aware of, and that many times we represent a position, or perhaps a moment in time, that opens up a door for change.

Youth involvement is currently one of the major themes at the United Nations and, as an NGO in general consultative status, WFWPI is making large strides to move along with this agenda. It is also the current emphasis made by both the WFWPI Founder and the International President, who have highlighted the need to engage a new generation and to raise them up as future leaders of the world. Youth are, in many cases, very much aware of the reality on the ground; they observe their surroundings and are able to identify the problems that a society is facing; they seek for innovative and relevant methods to treat and resolve these issues; and at the same time they are also capable of dreaming bigger dreams, of more easily overcoming barriers and reaching broader scopes through technology, and of looking at the world as one global family.

That being said, having grown up in the Middle East where revering elders is a crucial element of the culture, and through having parents that I deeply respect and look up to, I am pushed to believe that youth can only really become future leaders through a healthy mentoring process where they are taught and trained to not only be intelligent, fearless and confident, but also to be righteous, kind and to have integrity. This type of mentorship is not one that focuses solely on developing technical skills, but also one that highlights a growth in heart and consciousness towards other people and the planet. As a young adult working at WFWPI I feel that I am given a unique opportunity to be mentored by women leaders from around the world who in their own right have made fascinating efforts to impact the world through responding to the needs of the communities they are in, and by investing in becoming better daughters, sisters, wives and mothers to those around them. I am honored to be a student, learning from their experiences and inheriting their foundation.

In our work in New York, we are making an effort to engage and mentor youth through including them as interns in the UN New York Office. I work together with several young adults including Youngsoon Quinn, a 23 year old graduate student at the Unification Theological Seminary, who is currently serving as the DPI youth intern for WFWPI. Roudabeh Jamshid Eini, a Masters candidate of the Global Development and Peace program at the University of Bridgeport, who was born and raised in Iran, is another intern who works on research efforts related to WFWPI's role as an NGO in general consultative status with ECOSOC. Also, Nandi Bengu, WFWP, USA Chairwoman in Harlem, New York, is a young adult UN representative.

These ladies are required to attend regular UN briefings that cover a wide range of topics, that allow them to become more thoroughly aware of and involved in the UN agenda. It is also an opportunity for networking. Beyond that, they also work alongside a number of other WFWPI UN representatives who are involved with several different committees with CONGO, the Committee of NGOs that affiliates with the UN.

Youth comprise one quarter of the world's population and, in the words of H.E. Mr. Martin Sadjik, President of the UN Council of Economic and Social Affairs, in his opening remarks at the ECOSOC Youth Forum in February 2015, "the question is no longer is youth involvement necessary, but how can it be strengthened?" Mentorship, as well as providing accessible supportive structures, is crucial for youth. The WFWPI internships that are being developed are intended to allow interns to gain advocacy skills at the UN, to contribute a much needed voice, and also to connect and learn from their elders.

It's a good time to be a young adult and to have this intentional support from world leaders and from the UN. It is important that in return, we the youth, remember that we are representing a generation, and that stepping into the roles that we have been given, as challenging as they may be at times, is a move towards supporting this exciting transition. I for one am grateful to be a part of it.