Building Global Connections and Participatory Empowerment
IWC's International Young Adult Network Program
By Emilie Jarrett and Liza M. Lamar
IWC’s International Young Adult Network Program, funded in part by the UU Funding Program and the European Unitarian Universalists, offers a virtual space for Unitarian/Unitarian Universalist young adults from around the world to come together for a meeting of minds. So far, this exciting initiative has attracted 22 participants from 11 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, the Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Rwanda refugees residing in Uganda, the U.S., and Wales.
The program – led by two co-leaders, Ms. Emilie Jarrett based in Belgium and Ms. Liza M. Lamar from India –aims to build connections and provide tools and opportunities for participatory empowerment, social justice, activism, and change, both at the United Nations and in the participants’ local communities.
The program commenced on 5 March 2022, and thus far there have been five meetings. The twice-a-month Zoom meetings allow for a space for young adult Unitarians/UUs to learn and dialogue about issues that global society is facing, guided by presentations by various resource speakers. Participants will also learn and practice leadership and project management skills so that they will be able to create and present their own program at the 67th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2023.
The meetings that focus on presentations start by resource speaker(s) introducing and detailing the topic or issue at hand, and then engaging with the young adult participants in a Q&A session. A more nuanced discussion of the topic follows in a separate meeting, allowing for sharing and dialogue among program participants, illuminating the topic and how it is influenced by participants’ various socio-economic-geographic backgrounds.
In April, Rev. Tet Gallardo (Philippines) and a member of the program, Elle Zhang (Singapore), offered presentations on LGBTQIA+ rights and issues. In May, Ms. Carmen Capriles (Bolivia) talked about climate change and peacebuilding. The lack of opportunities and visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community were highlighted; lack of awareness and education, relating to both topics, were held up as a cause of major concern by those present. With discussions leaving a deluge of food for thought, we hope this year-long program will mobilize social activism at the grassroots level, providing inspiration and tools for program members to contribute to their communities in a meaningful way.