By Sasha Surandran
UNICEF Malaysia was one of the supporting partners at this year’s TEDxYouth@KL (www.tedxyouthkl.com), that was held in the greater suburbs of Kuala Lumpur on 12 December 2015. The partnership was established to better enhance the country office’s work with adolescents and youth, especially focused on marginalized communities.
As a result, 15 young people who are part of programmes run by several organizations that work directly with youth from vulnerable communities, were invited to attend TEDxYouth@KL as guests of UNICEF Malaysia. These organizations included the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS), MySkills Foundation (an organization that works with youth from urban poor communities) and the Malaysian Partnership for Children with Disabilities (MPCwD). They joined approximately 1,500 youths from all over the country for a day of engaging talks by compelling speakers who touched on social entrepreneurship, climate change and youth participation.
In line with this year’s theme, “Made in the Future”, UNICEF Malaysia organized a workshop right before the actual event for the 15 young people, inspired by the idea of being change-makers within their own communities and empowering others. UNICEF Malaysia’s innovation partner, Tandemic, facilitated the workshop, and it provided the young people the opportunity to engage with one another, not just through activities and games but also created a safe space for them to share their experiences and hopes for the future through the individual life charts they developed during the workshop.
As Bellinda Debra Raymond, a 22-year old community activist and indigenous youth from the Malaysian state of Sabah so aptly said after the workshop, “I enjoyed the workshop because I got to meet other young people from different communities. And that made me realize that everyone had their own stories to share, and even though many of us have gone through difficult periods in our lives, our experiences make each of us special and unique in our own way.”
As a bonus, they also had a surprise guest in the form of Syed Azmi, the first speaker of the day at TEDxYouth@KL and a popular Malaysian social activist, who dropped by to share some of his personal experiences of being a change-maker for good.
While 15 young people had a chance to experience and participate in their very first TEDx event, UNICEF also engaged directly with the 1, 500 strong young audience at the event through virtual reality. The country office set up an Experiential booth at TEDxYouth@KL for visitors to experience “Clouds Over Sidra”, the first-ever film shot in virtual reality for the United Nations. The ground-breaking film brought viewers closer to the situation than a standard screen could ever convey, joining children as they lived their daily lives at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. The virtual reality booth was one of the most popular booths at TEDxYouth@KL, with long lines during each break. Many were seen wiping away tears after the short film ended, visibly moved by what they experienced.
In 2016 and beyond, UNICEF will continue working with young people closely on issues that affect them, especially youth from communities that do not have the same level of access to opportunities and services as others. One approach that the country office aims to do next year is to replicate TEDx-type youth events at community level to discuss themes that are relevant to the lives of young people within those communities. This was echoed by Bellinda, Jonathan (13), Selvaraju (16) and others from JOAS, MySkills and MPCwD, young people who met as strangers and left as friends, who are looking forward to organizing their very own similar events next year. More details to come.