Today is International Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is Youth Standing Up for Human Rights. İrfan Kalender was one of the youth representatives who participated in the Voice of Youth session at the EQUALS meeting in New York this past September, representing Global Scribes. The discussion centred on facilitating women’s and girls’ access to, and skills in and leadership opportunities in ICTs.
Here, İrfan tells us about his experience.
The Voice of Youth session at EQUALS was my first time visiting New York City and attending a meeting of this kind, so I was excited. The idea of meeting with people from big corporations and international organizations amazed me. These are the people who are shaping policy today, actually meeting with youth, listening to us and taking into account what we had say about the current situation and how we can improve it for the future. It really showed me that we, as youth, have the power to communicate with today’s decision makers with on topics that are important for our world.
The day started with the youth representatives meeting each other at the Girl Scouts of USA office where we brainstormed for the session happening that afternoon. There were two questions to be discussed:
What are the most effective channels for EQUALS to engage young women and men?
What are youth’s major skills gaps and how can EQUALS help fill these gaps?
In response to the first question, we thought that the best way to reach people —especially women— is through a role model or someone whom they respect, like a celebrity or a social media influencer; combined with the influence of local and community leaders who could raise awareness. By doing so, they can help their communities by providing education in an engaging environment and reach out to tech companies, asking them to commit to getting women and girls in tech.
For the second question, we mostly considered the gap in important tech skills. Our solution was to provide opportunities to gain experience through internship, online or formal training. Finally, we brainstormed on the main ideas we wanted to communicate in the coming event.
Most importantly, we got to meet one another. This was incredible for me, because I love meeting people from different cultures and with different ideas. In my opinion, the more you meet with people with different perspectives, the better your mind becomes at understanding and establishing empathy with more people.
Later, we walked together on the streets of New York to the Yale Club. The Yale Club had a great atmosphere. Once there, the youth representatives split into groups to discuss with people from different international organizations, NGOs and companies. They really listened to what we had to say, and asked us questions about our gendered experiences and perceptions of tech and society. I was asked about gender relations in my community in Turkey, what actions have been taken to close the digital gender gap and comparisons between my community’s solutions and solutions discussed at the event.
I think that these questions helped both the youth representatives and the organization leaders by giving us all more insight into how different cultures think about and approach the issue of the digital gender divide. Personally, I learned more what I could do to contribute to closing this gap. We then summarized our discussions for the larger group.
The youth representatives from Global Scribes Youth Uniting Nations decided to stay for the EQUALS Partners Plenary meeting as well, giving us the chance to meet with people who came to the meeting, learn about the work they’re doing, their personal stories and more. For me, this was the most interesting part of the session.
I’m grateful to EQUALS for giving us youth and Global Scribes this opportunity to express ourselves in such a place, and the opportunity meet with so many incredible life-changing people including, my peers, whom I became friends with.
About the author
İrfan Kalender is a freshman student at Boğaziçi University in İstanbul, Turkey, majoring in linguistics. He is also majoring in international relations at Anadolu University through distance education. İrfan is interested in learning about new cultures and languages. He is passionate about his participation in a non-profit organization, Global Scribes, which is for and by youth, which gives him the opportunity to meet young people from all around the world.