By KELLY ZHAO SIJIE & SOOHYUN BAE | April 19, 2019
The Amsterdam-based student teams of Amnesty International and UNICEF joined forces to host ‘YOUth ACT,’ a youth conference held at Amsterdam University College (AUC) on April 13 and 14, 2019. Over two exciting days of talks, workshops and small-group networking, a diverse range of issues in human rights & social justice were discussed through a practical lens. The aim was to bring together 80-100 socially engaged students who want to expand their network and learn how to take practical steps towards developing their own initiatives.
The mission of the YOUth ACT conference was to provide young people with the confidence and platform to freely come up with and share their perspectives and ideas, while also teaching them to take action for the same. The two-day event provided a unique opportunity to explore challenges and controversies in human rights & social justice, and to understand how experienced social entrepreneurs overcome barriers. Most significantly, participants learnt how to build youth initiatives from youth activists. YOUth ACT aimed to take a multidisciplinary approach by addressing the interaction between human rights and social justice focussing on topics such as: artificial intelligence and big data, business and finance, education as a tool to integration, global health and environmental challenges.
Platform of Sharing
“We wanted to host this particular event to create a platform for young people with diverse interests and diverse perspectives that share similar core values,” explained Lena Hoffmann, a co-founder of the YOUth ACT Conference, and also the Chair of the UNICEF Student team Amsterdam. A 22 year old student at the Vrije University (VU), she reflected, “There are so many amazing youth initiatives in Amsterdam. But young people who have particular interests are not even aware that there are people around them who are already doing these things.” She added, “So you don’t even have to start your own initiative, but maybe it’s that you just need to know the right people and start working with them. And that’s what YouthAct really brings; to really be that platform in Amsterdam for young people.”
Another co-founder of the conference, Egle Budreviciute, shared the same thought. “YOUth Act is a platform of sharing,” she commented. The 21 year old student of Humanities at the Amsterdam University College (AUC) is also the Chair of Amnesty International Student group Amsterdam (AISA). Specifically, she explained that she wanted to create an “intersectional” platform, integrating students from various fields, so that people would not only be exposed to new ideas in different fields, but also really focus and develop skills from them.
Their vision seems to have been realized as Pam Khomkirin, one of the participants, commented, “This (YOUth ACT) was a platform for like-minded people, where you come together, work on ideas, improve on those ideas, and take actions.” As a 22 year old Communication Science student at the University of Amsterdam, she was previously interested in human rights problems and education.. Ms. Khomkirin noted, “What I gained (after the conference) was confidence, because you were surrounded by people who are driven and share the same values.”
Similarly, another participant at the conference, Lela Roos, added, “The YOUth ACT was a booster to act.” The 19 year old student at AUC continued, “I got the motivation to work on the projects that I am starting as well as some practical tips on how I could go about that in reality, like asking for help, and where to ask for help. They gave us the tools for a good start.”
The conference lasted two days, each one having its own theme. Day 1, focusing on “establishing a common ground,” announced its start with the opening ceremony at 10am. After the experts panel – which invited exceptional individuals including Christina Moreno, Robert Rubinstein, and Sector035 – participants attended the first workshop. Through the workshop, the students were able to interact with potential role models who shared valuable insights on human rights and social justice problems. Day 2, with the theme of: “the power of youth action,” started with a lecture given by Our Bodies Our Voice, an organization which strives to change the culture surrounding issues of sexual violence and gender inequalities. For the rest of the day, the participants again chose from workshops among various fields. Both days were closed with ‘You Pitch’ time in which the participants shared their reflections on each of the workshops.
The organizers plan to continue building this sustainable platform to connect diverse interests and empower the youth to take action, uncover opportunities and face challenges. The spirit this conference was held in, resonated with every participant; just as Lena said, “This is for all of us.”
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