From 29th September to 2nd October 2015 I was in Ottawa Canada attending the seventh ‘One Young World Conference’ which brings together the brightest young leaders from over 196 countries around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change. One Young World was founded in 2009 by David Jones and Kate Robertson. The conference specifically targets valuable young talent from global and national companies, NGOs, universities and other forward-thinking organizations and are joined by world leaders, acting as the One Young World Counsellors. The renowned people who attended this year’s conference were Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada), Emma Watson (Goodwill Ambassador UN), Kofi Anaan (former UN Secretary and Nobel Peace Prize), Sir Bob Geldof (Musician and Activist), Professor Muhammad Yunus (Founder, Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate), Mary Robinson (Former President of Ireland), Maajid Nawaz (Activist, Author, Columnist & Politician), James Chau (CCTV News Anchor and UN Goodwill Ambassador), John Simpson (BBC World Affairs Editor), Cher (Singer & Oscar Winning Actress), Jon Landau (Oscar-winning Producer of Titanic and Avatar), Dambisa Moyo (Global Economist & Author) and Thuli Madonsela (South Africa Public Protector)

Meron (Eritrea) with James

I represented Malawi, earning a scholarship to attend from Opec Fund for International Development. I was selected because of my work and passion on Education in Malawi through Centre for Youth and Development, an NGO I founded and still lead. One Young World provided me with an opportunity to share ideas on how young people should be the main actors of social change using education as the main tool.

There were more than 1,300 delegates from several countries and I was selected to carry the flag of Malawi in the opening ceremony; unfortunately I arrived late having missed my flight through late arrival of the visa though thankfully managed to join the conference on the first day. The meeting gave opportunities to network – I offered ideas and discussed how to be agents of change in the world. The conference had many presentations and panel discussions on education, health, environment, the United Nations sustainable development goals, mental health, LGBTI and many other topics affecting young people in today’s world. The platform also allowed me to thoroughly assess present practice and consider how best I can improve my work.

The conference was a personal experience with lots of professional growth on a number of topics affecting young people in today’s world. It was very personal because you could relate to discussions as most of the challenges highlighted are deep-rooted in Malawian society. At the same time it was motivating to learn of many radical activities and projects being led by young people. The breakout sessions brought delegates face to face with local professionals in various sectors. These were linked with the community dinner program where Canadians volunteered to host delegates thereby allowing me to share the work I do but also to experience Canadian hospitality and learn more of its culture. All this reaffirmed my passion and motivation to work on improving young lives at home.

The conference also provided me an opportunity to meet up with fellow Naydians, Meron Semedar and Carlos Cuinica , both working with Network of African Youths for Development as Country Coordinators for Eritrea and Mozambique respectively. Unfortunately I was not able to meet Petrider Paul, NAYD Country Coordinator for Tanzania.

At the end of the conference, all delegates officially become One Young World Ambassadors, part of the world’s most internationally diverse alumni network of 8,000 young leaders now in 196 countries. One Young World is the biggest and best conference I have ever attended. Next year the conference is scheduled to take place in Bogota Colombia and will provide an amazing opportunity for fellow Naydians and young people across Africa to apply and participate in.

James Gondwe, NAYD CC MALAWI