A Woman from WAY: A First Woman Secretary-General

Umesh Mukhi

Our sustainability columnist sits down with one of the recognized leaders among youth and women, Ediola Pashollari who is the Secretary General  of The World Assembly of Youth (WAY) which is the apex international coordinating body of national youth councils and organizations.

Ediola 1
Question 1

Ediola, you are leading one of the largest youth organisations of the world, can you share the story of your journey in youth leadership?

My journey with WAY started on 2006, where I was appointed as the Deputy Secretary General till late 2007, then I took over as the Acting Secretary General. In 2010 to 2014, I was appointed as the Secretary General and reappointed in 2014 for another 4 years. I am currently the fourteenth (14th) Secretary-General of WAY, and the first female in such position for the past 65 years of WAY existence. My priorities have been and are in working with young people, bringing youth from different societies, communities and countries together, so that they can share ideas, thought and actions on improving cooperation on a global level and among youth.

I have attended a lot of youth events in different countries, presented a lot of papers related to your issues and also participated in various UN Agencies meetings. Most of the events I have attended tackle different youth issues that are essential to the young people globally.

As the Secretary-General, I am determined to see WAY deliver tangible, meaningful results that advance peace, development and human rights among youth.

Question 2

Can you share some insights about the aspirations and challenges governments face in terms of drafting an effective youth policy which empowers young people to access education and employment?

Many countries have stated their youth policies, but unfortunately not many of them are executing them accordingly. The primary challenge that government face with regards to youth policy is the drafting process, which must ensure that they have in place youth development programmes that respond to the challenges faced by the youth in the country; programmes that enable young people to have agency and take charge of their destiny.

Some of the challenges in education include curriculum unification as there is no unified curriculum in lots of countries. Whereas, what students learn varies widely, because curriculum decisions are so decentralized. In some other countries, governments are inspired by good performing students and when students graduate with good grades. In some countries, they have no education policies. Clearly, a lack of basic education is an important reason why young people face many challenges. In another words, the challenges differ from country to country.

Employment is another story, governments face challenges in setting the country’s minimum wages. The right of the employee and the employer, this is also another challenge. Providing employment to the youth and helping young people to enter and remain in the labor market, is yet another challenge. The National Youth Policy can only succeed if it has the full support of society as a whole.

Question 3

What are the 3 key issues which WAY is tackling on urgent basis?

As the slogan states “In the service of youth since 1949”, the journey of World Assembly of Youth (WAY) has been significantly profound in the empowerment, advancement and transformation of youth worldwide. In the past 65 years, WAY has tackled and discussed pertinent youth issues and assisted in the establishment of youth related policies through the organised programmes, activities and events at different levels.

For us all the youth issues are important.  For example, in this year Melaka International Youth Dialogue (MIYD) WAY will be focusing on Youth and Armed Conflict, while last year WAY focused on Youth and Education. Other youth issues WAY is tackling are: youth and human rights; youth and employment; youth participation in decision making; youth and hunger and poverty; youth and HIV/AIDs; youth and ICT; girls and young women; youth and disability; youth and drug abuse; youth and globalisation; youth and population; youth and environment; juvenile delinquency; youth and democracy; youth and health; youth and leisure time activities; youth and leadership training; youth and intergenerational relations; youth and human development; and finally youth and media.

 Question 4

What is Sustainable Development in your opinion and how is WAY approaching the issues of Sustainability?

Sustainable development is defined as development that satisfies the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy theirs. By definition, sustainable development is a development that takes the impact on the environment into account and tries to minimize environmental damage. In my opinion sustainable development is something that all businesses, large and small should be actively involved in.

WAY has been using The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as a guideline to address and tackle youth issues. As the international community strives to achieve MDGs, its progress is certainly far from meeting the set goals. Despite all the past achievements, there is still much to be desired, as the issues of sustainability hangs on a balance. Due to the fluctuating inadequacy of socioeconomic factors, the young people live in a very different and challenging world. Therefore, realising the challenges that lies ahead, it is essential to formulate a substantial Post-2015 Development Agenda including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), emphasising on the role that youth should play in order to achieve a sustainable world.

In this peculiar time, WAY sees a greater need for sustainability even as the drive, to develop and empower the community, continues. With that in mind, WAY has chosen “The Role of Youth on Sustainable Development” as the theme for the Fourth Millennium Plan of Action and is designed to be consistent with the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Its focus will be on the current issues that affect young people around the world. Youth role on sustainable development is very crucial. Youth and youth leaders should be pivotal players in tackling global development issues and play a key role in the decision making processes, at all levels.

Question 5

How do you see the link between leadership and sustainability?

The relationship between leadership and sustainability is very important, because there is no sustainability without leadership especially in the social, human and cultural dimension. There is an inextricable link between leadership and sustainable development because it is the leaders who are the drivers of sustainability. My desire is that through working with leaders we will provide tangible and long lasting benefits to sustainable development globally.

Question 6

How can young people resolve the leadership crises for sustainability in business, government and social sector?

The youth of our generation play many substantial roles at different levels of society. They are the major segment of the population and the human resources that we rely on to serve the economy, by creating jobs and raising the living standards. They are the most significant element for the nations’ economic growth and attainment of sustainable development. In order for youth to release their potential and resolving the leadership crises for sustainability in business, government and social sector, they must all join hands together to tackle the issues that appear as the obstacles of the sustainable  and betterment of the society.

Question 7

What would be your three key advices to youth all over the world to empower change within their communities?

They should embrace education. They should know their human right. They should work hard.

Young people who want to empower change in his or her community need to know his human right. It is very important that youth know their right and also know that their human right is protected by the law. Every youth have the right to education, freedom of expression, freedom of thought and we are all equal before the law. You cannot be talking about bringing change to your community when you are indolent and you do not work hard. If you look at all the successful people in the world today they always have one thing in common which is hard work. So any youth who really want to bring change to his community need to work hard. Work hard and become a successful entrepreneur, leader, etc.

The Interview can also be accessed on Sustainable Leadership Blog. The Sustainable Leadership Initiative is global platform to showcase best practices and engage trans-sector dialogue from business, government and social sector across the world in context of sustainability and leadership. You can follow them on Twitter: @sleadersummit and make sure you like them on Facebook!