On September 17th 2011, six youth delegates from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan & Sri Lanka met for the first time in Washington D.C to attend the ‘World Bank & IMF Annual Meetings 2011’. Though it was the first time we’d seen each other, it felt as if we had known one another for a long time! This was all thanks to our numerous Facebook, Skype and e-mail conversations that took place prior to our final meeting in the U.S.A, which allowed us to recognize the one thing that we all had in common: The aim and drive for socio-economic progress & development in our countries and region and the strong belief that South Asian youth are the key to bringing about the positive change!
The meetings kicked off with orientation sessions held separately by both the World Bank and IMF. These sessions allowed me to get a better understanding of how the organizations work and how they have evolved with time. Through these sessions, I got the opportunity to get introduced with youth delegates from African and Arab Middle Eastern region as well! We all came from different countries and with different experiences, and through these interactive sessions with WB and IMF staff, we got the opportunity to not only share our thoughts on various socio-economic issues, but also clarify our concerns through questioning the staff!
One of the sessions that I enjoyed most was the ‘Think Equal Open Forum’, which included an expert panel including the World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Nike Foundation CEO Maria Eitel and others. Watching videos of women and hearing messages from participants from around the world and listening to debates on what are the crucial factors to promote gender equality, all boiled down to asking myself : What does EQUAL mean to me?
Hence, the meetings were not only informative but thought-provoking!
However, the most exciting session would have to be the South Asian youth delegation meeting with the World Bank South Asian Region Vice President, Country Directors and other high officials! We got the great opportunity to speak and share our thoughts and insights on key youth related issues in the region. Prior to this meeting, we had a session with the World Bank South Asian region staff, to whom we showcased our youth related development activities and discussed on ways to involve youth in the development process. At the end of these sessions, I believe what became apparent to all of us, especially to the South Asian youth delegates, is that despite the economic, social or political conditions of our nations, when it comes to youth related issues, our problems were alike, our aspirations were the same. Hence from the discussions we had, the realization came that we need to work not only within our own countries but as a region to tackle issues like youth unemployment, gender inequality, malnutrition etc.
Our realization became stronger following the two main events that took place, firstly, the launching of the ‘More & Better Jobs in South Asia’ flagship and secondly, ‘Ensuring Nutrition & Food Security for Results in South Asia’. Both these sessions helped us to get a look into where our countries stood as well as where we were as a region on these issues!
‘The World Bank & IMF Annual Meetings 2011’ has been the most exciting week of my life! What it has taught me is tough to summarize, because I feel this experience does not end here; it has only given me the inspiration to pursue greater work in my country and region, which I believe will bring along with it many more teachings! And at the end of the meetings, I believe that what this experience has created is magical --- it has transformed the six youth delegates from six countries to one South Asian Youth Delegation! And this is the greatest thing that I have taken from this entire experience--- the understanding that despite race, color, gender, religion or any other discriminatory factor, we, the youth are above it all when it comes to working together in hopes of pursuing a better tomorrow for our countries, our region and our world.
My heartfelt thanks to all World Bank Staff, youth delegates and every one affiliated with the meetings for making this experience inspirational and phenomenal! I truly believe that this experience will be cherished by the South Asian youth delegation as a launch to greater work in the region!