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Technology making agriculture “sexy”

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SPOTLIGHT: A Q&A with Jennifer Grom, International Youth Delegate - USA


By: Sally Mouakkad, 2014 WCY Social Media Fellow

Sally (S): Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your organization? Jennifer (J): I am Jennifer Grom, a junior, pre-med biology major at Geneseo University New York. I am an international youth delegate pushing for more equal access to education. I started the SAFE (Save A Future with Education) program in the 4th grade. Even though Mexico technically has a “free” education system, many children in the Lake Chapala area are often unable to afford the mandatory uniforms, textbooks, and school supplies in order to attend public school. I learned this fact after getting to know the local youth during my visit to my aunt and uncle who retired in Ajijic, Mexico. Ever since, the SAFE program raises money in the states for the supplies that are the limiting factor in our sponsored kids obtaining education.

believe them to be synergistically intertwined. The socioeconomic oppression of the Mexican poor by their own society continues because the inability to get a thorough education exacerbates the generational cycle of poverty. Thus, in this way, such systemic inequality traps children into a socioeconomic class before they enter the world.

S: What do you hope to get out of the conference, and what do you hope the conference will achieve? J: I hope to gain understanding. I want to understand different cultures, different points of view on education policy. I want people to challenge me, making me think about the problem in different lights. I hope the WCY goals will be incorporated into the Post-2015 Development Goals of the UN.

S: What are you looking forward to the most as a selected WCY 2014 S: What is the significance of WCY 2014? participant? J: I am so excited to get the perspectives of youth leaders around J: This conference is vital. First because the world on these issues that will be vital during our lifetime. I think it will be really incredible to meet some of the greatest young minds in the world. I cannot wait to form long lasting friendships. Already I can tell that this group of youth is like no other I have ever encountered. Even though we have the most diverse backgrounds, there is an instantaneous mutual understanding and respect upon meeting. There is something truly beautiful about the genuine and similar passion among us: bettering the world through bettering the post 2015 agenda. These people are humble and open-minded.

S: Which of the conference themes or foundations are you most interested in, and why? J: I am most interested in “Ending systemic inequality” and “Equal access to education”. I am most interested in these topics because I

it recognizes the importance of young people in society which was not recognized in the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals. Second, because this time, Sustainable Development is the primary focus of these goals. Since the ultimate degree of success in sustainable development will not be the problem of the generation of current policy makers, it will be our problem. We care about what will be our world. Therefore, we should be the ones to make the decisions on sustainable development. Third, we need to foster the idea of global citizenship (now more than ever possible because of technological communication). Instead of the current system of identifying “mine” and “not mine”, we need to foster the idea of “ours” when it comes to common resources. So taking the most passionate youth leaders from all over the world and allowing them to make connections will enable us to more easily understand the concept of “ours” in the future, a concept desperately needed in order to obtain global sustainability.


Technology making agriculture “sexy” ‘Some 70% of youth in Asia and Sub Saharan Africa live in rural areas’ says AnushkaWijesinha, an economist at the Institute of Policy Studies Sri Lanka and a speaker in this afternoon’s thematic discussion on poverty and food security. The statistic holds true for Sri Lanka as well. According to Anush, tackling youth poverty then, directly relates to looking at ways to improve the use of technology to create greater efficiencies in agriculture. Because most of these rural economies rely on the sector.


What better way to illustrate how this can be done than to highlight a few remarkable examples where young people have directed very simple technologies widely available today towards innovative use in agriculture. For instance, one young man from Batticaloa, who discovered micro irrigation, went back to his hometown in order to start farming. His initial seed investment was returned four fold in less than a year. The average weight of his monthly crop also increased and all this at a significant reduction of labor involved. A few in Sri Lanka use mobile technology in order to access up to date information about prices for produce in markets. Some of them are able to get much better prices than they would normally by timing their delivery into markets. Another young man, through a program that allowed rural house-holds access to tablets in a rotational program, used it to give his father information on when best to dry his seed paddy, through the simple use of a weather forecasting app. ‘Young people need to use technologies already at their fingertips for purposes beyond that of simply downloading music’ said Anushka, wrapping up.

By Abdul Halik Azeez



A Look inside the Sessions Unemployed mothers, forced labor and UN internships Moldovan casinos advertising jobs for “good looking women only” or requirement for a cleaning lady in a Romanian Orthodox church to be Orthodox , are just a few examples of discrimination in labor market worldwide. More on the youth discrimination in the interview with Reiko Tsushima, ILO Senior Gender Specialist. What groups of young people are mostly affected by labor discrimination? Gender remains the most sensitive ground. Employers don’t want to hire young women, because of maternity leave payment. Women of reproductive age are particularly affected by this trend, and also once they have a family. In countries like Moldova, where childcare systems are yet not well established, women have to become part of informal economy, or end up working part time, which also lowers their income and hinders career growth. If a family ends up with a divorce – these women are left alone on the labor market with no education or work experience needed.

payment is extremely low, however with a promise to provide a substantial sum for “marriage”once the internship is over. They attract long term commitment with a very low pay, nearly bordering with forced labor. If you quit half way – you lose this money.

How about young people who lose in competition over a qualified job, because of not having financial means to go through an unpaid UN internship in New York? Social stratification is inevitable in the end. It is very important that educated youth unites to voice their concerns. ILO actively works on promoting international conventions on non-discrimination, forced labor and other to become part of recognized international law.

UN agencies became nowadays part of the new global phenomenon of internships, which are mostly unpaid. How does it coincide with The WCY participants seem to be very passionate and rather idealthe UN mandate of advocating for youth rights and against youth istic about the outcome document. Do you believe that the Declaration has a chance to make a real impact? unemployment and discrimination? It is an important policy issue. However it has to be understood that there is also a training benefit, which has to be taken into consideration. There are more critical situations which have to be addressed. For example in South Asia there are so called ‘marriage schemes’ internships. During a 6-months-long internship

Depends on youth undertaking action. It is crucial to keep highlighting the Declaration on international agenda and gain support of the political network, such as workers organizations and trade unions. For it to have implementation, Declaration should find its way in other agendas. By Vera Djemelinskaia,

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When we talk about Gender Equality, we usually talk exclusively about women and we forget that gender includes men and women. Gender based violence for instance, is mainly empowering women and excluding the essential contribution of men as perpetrators of violence in most cases. During the World Conference on Youth, taking place now in Sri Lanka, I met Natko Gereš from Croatia. He is advocating for a different perspective to tackle gender equality. He is the director of youth organization Status M and coordinator at MenEngaged which is a global alliance established since 2006. Natko explained some of the many projects his organization conducts such as “Be A Man campaign” for high school boys where they provide training about social skills. He sarcastically said “men are raised idiots and cannot express their emotions”. So they try through this campaign to make men express their emotions and break the assumptions based on which all boys grow up believing “Men don’t cry”. Another campaign is called “Be A Man Be Sober” which educates men on how alcohol affects them, their relationships and lead them eventually to violence. “Men can change the society because they are part of the committed violence against women”. Such a statement from a young man like Natko engaging in men awareness of gender issues, can definitely make a lot of men out there questioning their involvement to the problem and the solution related to gender equality. Most importantly, Natko emphasized that, we should not fall into the same paradigm of “men doing something for women” but rather make them understand that gender issues affect them as well as the community and society as a whole. “at least they will feel comfortable to ask for help” since recent researches show that men ask for medical help 7 to 8 years later than women. I think Natko is a role model for many men to challenge the traditional understanding of manhood and masculinity. He believes that Manhood is “building relationships based on respect and

equality, speaking our against violence in the society, having the strength to ask for help, shared decision-making and shared power and it’s by how much you are able to respect the diversity and rights of those around you” My conversation with Natko reminded me of a great TEDtalk by on of leading anti-sexist male activists in the US, Jackson Katz. He points out in his talk that domestic violence and sexual abuse are intrinsically men’s issues and shows how these violent behaviors are tied to definitions of manhood. Surprisingly this issue has been also at the heart of the discussion during the sessions of Gender Equality. Pippa Gardner, a Scout Leader from the UK stated that :” Men and Women in the same sentence is not what gender equality is about. Nothing much has been done on including men in the discussion about gender because they think empowerment of women is the dis-empowerment of men”. Fair enough, among the speakers, facilitators and the audience of Gender Equality round tales and the breakout sessions, there have been men and women which confirms that gender issues is about and for us all. Let’s reflect on the terms we have been using and believing as “women roles” instead of “gender roles”… “women issues” instead of “gender issues”… and “women empowerment instead of “society empowerment” Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals is about “promoting gender equality and empowering women”. So let’s ask ourselves, WHY after 15 years of allocated fund, projects and continuous gender advocacy; sexual abuse, rape and domestic abuse remain a problem and came up over and over at the Post 2015 Agenda? Aya’s blog:


Is Gender Equality only about Women?


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#WCY2014 News Letter Ep2