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Lessons from My World Bank Expedition

Sonal Kapoor's picture

My learnings from the recently concluded World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings 2011 where I represented India as a youth delegate. I am compiling them all together as lessons I learnt and how it changed my life and rewrote my history and understanding. Forever.

Lesson #1: The world has finally started taking the youth seriously.

Over the past 10 days or so, I had seen and felt that the youth opinion DOES MATTER to the policy makers at the World Bank and IMF. In individual meetings between CSOs, Bank, IMF Staff and Executive Directors, or at the Global Development debate on jobs opportunities for all, or at the flagship event, More and Better Jobs, I have realized that our opinion is acted upon stringently. Youth at the World Bank is a respected and celebrated group. When Jeremy Mark, Deputy Chief of Public Affairs, External Relations Department, encouraged me to go ahead and speak to Ms. Christine Lagarde, MD, IMF about a concern I had on issues in low income economies, I was pleasantly surprised. Honestly, I had not expected this open door policy concept of such higher up officials taking genuine and keen interest in the concerns that a youngster would have about the street children in her country, she is working with. Simply put, this sensitivity amazed me.

Lesson #2: What I've always thought sets me apart, binds me to others.

Never was this more clear to me than when I was sitting in one of the conferences here that was to talk about the International Year of Youth [2011] and our contributions in our respective countries. I discussed everything from India to Tunisia, from topics ranging from the Arab Spring to the Tahrir Square victory, from the scenario of jobs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region to the social revolutions social media brought about, and I was beginning to believe that I had discussed it all. Just then, I found myself staring straight into this woman's eyes, sitting across the table, and she into mine. She had lost her only son to the civil war in Africa, the largest war in modern African history that had continued from from 1998 to 2008. The wikipedia tells me it killed 5.4 million people. I don’t know any of them though. But in that one moment I had known her. I had known her son. I began to accept how all of us are so similar at so many levels and respected the courage of this 64 year old lady, who started an organization to work for the youth in her country affected post the civil war. THAT is what victories are weaved of, I learnt that one day.

Lesson #3: With creative people, truly new horizons open up.

I work with colors and art in India with street children and their mothers. We paint imagination in my school in India. I saw and felt ART with my interaction with most of the people I happened to meet. I met a Japanese woman with whom I discussed more possibilities of reaching out to more street children through Art. I met The Girl Effect team and the Nike Foundation and discussed future possibilities of working together through Art for a better world. I discussed with the people from more than 27 countries, on how art could change the world. Now who would have thought of this happening at the World Bank? But yes, it did. I met the guys who had put together the Think Equal platform and got to know the people behind the stories from the world they showcased on gender inequality. I met people who defined inspiration. I got to know them not as Youth Delegates or CSOs who were participating just like me, but as real change makers in their respective countries, in their own little ways. After attending numerous sessions day in and day out with such people, I could not tell, if the day was ending, or if the world was rising up to a better more hopeful world, the next day. There was discussion, every mind was given a platform to voice its opinions, the voices were heard and considered.

Lesson #4: What is malleable is always superior to that which is immovable.

I had read somewhere that there are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds. Similar are my learnings from the recently concluded World Bank meetings. The stage has been left open for more discussion and has given a platform for the youth to come together, network and build up those castles, the way it wants. Honestly, expecting such flexibility and openness for change from an organization most people have believed is rigid, surprised me at the outset too. This agreeability to adaptability and change opened up a lot of good roads, I would like to believe and tell. I am happy to state, that these meetings have not ended, yet. They have sparked off a million potentialities of working together with like minded people. The coming together of the South Asian Youth Delegation as one force for advising the World Bank in their future programs in these countries, I feel is a brilliant step to consider youth opinion at every step.

This is only a beginning. And more shall come. It will, for you made me believe.

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