Pamoja means together, and among young leaders it has become a greeting to remind us that we are a global force. We are facing the same problems and have to work together to get the solutions. Pamoja, was a word used frequently at the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit. If you happened to be a stakeholder or young person attending the conference you would most likely have heard it very often. The global youth economic opportunities summit brought together young people, development agencies and many policy makers to talk about models and strategies that we are using or can use to create more opportunities for young people .
The Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit brings together almost 5000 people. It is a truly global convening that brings together leading stakeholders from countries to connect, exchange, and collaborate. Unlike previous summits, this year’s summit had a pre training program for the young people that were attending. For me, and all the young people that attended, that was the most effective way to involve us. The making cents team that organised the conference made sure every young person sat with a mentor and got one-to-one time with them. Young people do not need lots of sessions to push them, they need to be guided, listened to, and advised—and that’s exactly what the mentors did. The summit did not only empower young people it listened and openly talked about the challenges that they are continually facing.
This summit was a platform, a channel, that helped most of the young people to meet their mentors, that allowed the project planners to meet the funders, and the evaluation teams to analyse what solutions had been working, where and why. The panel discussions, that included stories and sharing of statistical data, provoked solutions to how young people can learn, earn, and thrive and even though it was for a short time the young people present learnt a whole lot that will be taken back home with them.
Each day had various panel discussions and keynote speakers. One, that I will never forget, said that young people were not there because of luck but because they had been working hard behind the scenes, because they have been trying to be heard, and now that they were there they had to work harder. One speaker talked about how change happens;the importance of knowing the audience you are communicating to, and having the right message, the right messenger, and the right medium. The directors and program managers, that I managed to talk to among all the panel discussions, would probably never know but as a young person they pushed me five years ahead in my professional life just from listening to and learning from them. The network connections that I made are ones that I know are key in playing my role as a young change maker.
One of the solutions presented was an approach that organisations are using in their projects, as they target a specific group of young people they also educate the people around them to achieve a common goal. This to me is a working solution, the reason why we educate young girls about early marriages and we still have them in high numbers is because we do not educate the fathers that sell them off, or the mothers that fail to fight for their daughters rights to go to school. And no matter how many times we create a solution for a target group of young people if we never include the people around them then most of our solutions will go to waste because we cannot deny the role others play in their lives. This solution has saved marriages in Malawi, because in promoting small enterprises for women their husbands were called to be part of the program and it helped them grow closer because they better co-defined what they wanted to achieve. It may sound ironic but I believe that if we could use this approach for most of the projects in rural areas we would probably have a higher impact, of course, being mindful of the contexts in which we apply this solution
At the end we still had the same mindset, with clearer goals, better strategies, and better connections. Each of us going back to our countries with a clearer vision., We are a swarm of bees making so much noise that the world will not be able to ignore us, we are unstoppable. And we greet each other with pamoja because we knew that the only way we can win, is pamoja.