“CYC Asia representative reflects on term”September 4th, 2015
With elections to the Commonwealth Youth Council approaching, Mridul Upadhyay, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from New Delhi interviewed Tharika Dileepani, CYC Asia Regional Representative, to discuss the CYC’s work and how youth leaders can participate.
Mridul: Hi Tharika, you will complete two year term with Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) as Asia Region Representative in November 2015. CYC is a young and youth-led platform of immense responsibilities. But starting and setting up something is really challenging, so thank you for doing it.
Tharika: Actually, Commonwealth youth do not have to be thankful to any of CYC executive. You guys elected us for this and we are just giving our best with the support of you all.
Mridul Upadhyay: How has it been for you as Asia regional Representative?
Tharika: With just eight countries in Asia region, it looks easy but actually it is very tough to handle such a diverse and populous region, mainly because of the communication gap. But on the other hand, strong, enthusiastic and passionate young individuals and youth supportive governments were my strength and helped me a lot.
Mridul: How are you and other executives supporting the respective roles: voluntary or paid, full time or part-time, communications?
Tharika: It was said to be 20 hours of commitment per week but sometimes it demands even more, especially when we have some crucial role to play like planning for Asia Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers meeting. The executives get paid an allowance of €100 per month according to their performances during that month.
Our communications are basically online meetings through Skype or WebEx, sometimes phone calls also. Ahmed Adamu (Chair CYC) and Sadham (Vice Chair, Partnerships and Resources) are currently working In London, so they ensure the direct communications with Commonwealth Secretariat.
Mridul: What has CYC achieved so far? And how effective and productive were these two years?
Tharika: Firstly, the recognition as a youth-led organization was achieved. Second is getting the financial support like we got from Pakistan’s government when CYC was established.
Third, we were able to open CYC secretariat in Colombo (Sri Lanka) in August 2014 after a lot of negotiations, which solved a bit our requirement for permanent space to continue our work. I am proud to say I did a very good job to make it a reality.
Also, three regions had regional meetings with high officials and youth ministers in extremely youth-inclusive ways. I was working in the youth caucus structure, so I can feel the difference. Now the youth are getting more chances and voice as CYC is representing young people in many global forums.
Mridul: Are you close to achieving your goals of election memorandum? Do you feel, by any chance, it was a bit away from reality?
Tharika: There were mainly two goals in my election memorandum. One is to establish an effective communication strategy, which we tried to get endorsed at the CYMM. Unfortunately ministers didn’t endorse it – still there is a way to make it by establishing regional youth platform for Asia and national youth councils (NYCs). The other main thing was to promote good practices in Sri Lanka and have cultural youth exchanges among the region, which is not achieved. But with the establishment of the new government in Sri Lanka, I am optimistic. I have time as we are going to hand over CYC office to the next executive committee in March.
Mridul: What are you leaving for the next executive committee to carry on?
Tharika: We do not have any ongoing project to be continued. But we would like them to progress in establishing regional youth platforms for Asia and national youth councils (NYCs) in the countries that do not have NYCs. The incoming executive committee should have its own goals in line with CYC’s strategic plan, like SDGs were one of our important targets for these two years. Priorities can be changed.
Mridul: What are the main challenges you facing? And what solutions do you think for them?
Tharika: First, there must be fulltime staff for us to do our work effectively. Also, executives should have more physical meetings, at least once every quarter. Communication gaps are also a big challenge and having regional and national youth platforms will be an effective solution.
Mridul: As you know the responsibilities as a regional representative, what qualities do you want to see in next regional representative executives?
Tharika: To represent such a diverse region, the representative should be very flexible, well exposed to the regional diversity, well connected with young people and should have proven approach strategy.
Mridul: What mistakes can a newly selected executive make? What will be your suggestions for them to avoid these mistakes?
Tharika: CYC is not working at a grass-root level. It is a body which does consultation to ensure that grass-root levels get the advantage. The executive can be very keen on working on behalf of his or her people. But there should be a broad vision and a gentle way to work with people to get things done to maintain our image. The representative should be thorough about the region, our implementation capacity, about what is available, what is not and who gives the support.
Mridul Upadhyay: You have given amazing and clear details for the readers. I hope this interview will increase the understanding of CYC’s working and help youth leaders to prepare their application for upcoming CYC elections. Thanks a lot for your time.
Tharika: Thank you.
Photo credit: Mridul Upadhyay
A thinker, a social volunteer, a mechanical designer, a theater artist, a guitar player, a lyrics-writer, an amateur sketch artist, a cook, a traveler, a wannabe civil servant – there are many phrases I enjoy trying on me to describe what I see myself as.
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