YCF Alumni Get-Together in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Below is an article from Imran Newaz Khurshid who participated in the Young Connectors of the Future (YCF) leadership programme alumni event at the Ambassador’s Residence in Bangladesh.

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Photographer: Poroma Kanya – the Communication Officer at Embassy of Sweden in Dhaka

What  can be more exciting than meeting your fellow alumni after you have successfully completed an amazing program like the Young Connectors of the Future (YCF)? Yes it really happened on the 1st of November and was hosted by Mr. Johan Frisell – the Swedish Ambassador to Bangladesh.

The greetings went smooth as the YCF alumni arrived one by one. Not only it was exciting for the YCF alumni to meet the newest cohort of YCF participants, but the Ambassador himself was also very enthusiastic to meet us and know about our passions and areas of work. The alumni certainly had a diverse work area. They are working in sectors like Youth Development, Human Rights, Policy Advocacy, Women Empowerment, and many other social dimensions where changes need to be brought. The alumni who knew each other from the previous YCF programs recalled the reminiscence of their past gaiety. But they were super excited to meet the most recent batch of YCF and to learn about the participants in general along with their passion and goals.

The YCF started its journey in 2013 with a cohort of seven participants from Bangladesh who joined other talented individuals from three other South Asian countries, namely Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The YCF’s journey started at that point and now we are here all chatting together at the Ambassador’s residence – meeting each other again and knowing a great deal about the most recent participants. This time there were seven “change-agents” from Bangladesh and they have joined the participants from four other countries (where the new addition was Sri Lanka) to complete their first module that was conducted from 29 August to 16th September of 2016.

Mr. Johan was very generous to take out some time from his busy schedule and share it with us to learn about us. He discussed some of the important ongoing activities of Sweden and the Swedish Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Among them the some of the significant ones were the Nobel Week Dialogue and #HeForShe campaign.

After the formal greeting and announcements made by the Ambassador, Palki Ahmed and I were invited to speak about our experiences of YCF and share our advices to the most recent batch of YCF.  Palki, an alumni of YCF 2013 who now works at United Nations Development Program (UNDP), stressed on the cross-cultural benefits and learning and networking with the other youth peers. She also mentioned how these are essential to understand leadership. According to her, global concerns are now interdisciplinary and it is important to take a global approach, for which the Swedish Institute (SI) allowed us to create that platform, and connect and learn from each other. She was very impressive in recalling her understanding of YCF and its goals.

Her well-thought-of description helped me to recall all the anticipations and excitements that I had during my trip to Sweden, both the times for the YCF modules 1 and 2. I felt nostalgic as I recollected the exciting times while travelling to Sweden, enjoying the beautiful nature, gulping the Swedish coffee during the ‘Fika’ and learning so much about leadership. The learning experience there eventually empowered me to initiate my own program of Soft Skills and Leadership training for the young people in Bangladesh. Since then I have been involved in training the young people at various social initiatives, political leaders at Democracy International, and other young professionals. I emphasized on the importance of building a strong network among the SI alumni and exemplified on the collaboration of working with the YCF alumni from India and Bangladesh.

The sharing of the experiences did not stop among the YCF alumni. As we started mingling with each other and really getting to know the new cohort of the YCF, the new cohort along with the old ones continued sharing their experiences of YCF and about their current works! Solnara Aktar Tania, a participant in YCF 2016, who works at Ain O Salish Kendra, found the YCF to be very interesting. She absolutely loved the way the program was facilitated by the trainers. According to her the content of the learning sessions was amazing, especially the Social Networking lessons. Also, understanding what the human rights situation in other parts of the world added to her professional skills. The team culture that was developed made the participants feel like family members to each other.  Another participant – Hasib Ahsan Nadeem, who went to YCF during 2014-15 has always believed that YCF is a mix of emotional and practical leadership training. He still remembers the very first ice breaking session he had in a tiny village named Ekero where the 30 participants drew everyone’s pictures with a single scratch of the pen. It was fantastic how it basically made him feel that it’s a one world and all of us were like different parts of human body where “humanity lies”. Hasib, immediately after finishing his YCF module 1, got an invitation from Stockholm University to attend and preach in a seminar at ‘Nobel Museum’ where different scholars were present. And after coming back to the country, he developed different large scale projects on social and economic development keeping the human rights and gender rights entities under consideration. He is now looking forward to attend the ‘Nobel Week Dialogue’ in Stockholm, Sweden in 2016.

The evening was a memorable one with a lot of discussions and fun. Thanks to the Ambassador of Sweden in Dhaka – Mr. Johan Frisell for generously hosting us and getting to know us. We revisited the fact that it is of paramount importance for young leaders to work collaboratively across sectors to bring sustainable changes to the world that we live in. Therefore, it is high time that we keep on doing so to develop innovative solutions to the multidisciplinary challenges around us.