Wednesday 19 June 2019

Lise Hand: One Young World of courage and defiance

Even celebs are star-struck as youth takes centre stage

Lise Hand

The moderator of the discussion on gender equality was in a spot of bother. She was trying to keep the session on schedule, but she just couldn't stem the flood of stories pouring from delegates on the floor. Stories of courage and defiance in the face of implacable violence or ignorance.

Srusht Ali (20) from Kurdistan was determined to pay tribute to a 19-year-old countrywoman and stood her ground in the auditorium until she was handed a microphone.

Boris Becker takes a photo with a delegate at the One Young World Summit
Boris Becker takes a photo with a delegate at the One Young World Summit

"As you know, ISIS is frightening the whole world, especially in our area," she began.

"There is a special force and ISIS is so afraid of them, they're terrified. And they are women, they are only women. They are the Kurdish Freedom Fighters," she said.

Actress Meghan Markle at the One Young World 2014 Summit in Dublin.
Actress Meghan Markle at the One Young World 2014 Summit in Dublin.

"Like you, they are daughters, sisters, mothers and they became leaders. There is a girl, she was 19 years old and her village was threatened by Isis. She protected it and she had only one bullet left when they came. It was hopeless for her so she used that bullet for herself for she didn't want to let them torture, rape or kill her. If you think 'because I'm a girl, I can't do something', think of this girl," she declared passionately, as the room of men and women erupted in cheers and applause.


The summit, of which INM is a media partner, may be called One Young World, but it is a world awash with a multiplicity of stories.

All day, they told their tales from the stage, from the auditorium floor, or in quiet conversations in the Convention Centre.

Actress Meghan Markle at the One Young World Summit
Actress Meghan Markle at the One Young World Summit

Every debate brought to light new narratives. During the plenary sessions, the stage was full of well-known faces including former tennis champ Boris Becker, ex-Arsenal and England star Sol Campbell, adventurer Mark Pollock and 'Suits' star, US actress Meghan Markle, but it was the delegates who really caught the imagination of the hall.

These included Amir Ashour from Iraq, who works in his country supporting the rights of gay people in the face of widespread stigma against homosexuality. "The saddest part of my job is when I meet people who have been rejected by their own families and friends, by society and government. They grow up thinking that even their creator considers them as sinners," he said, explaining how the religious militia organise "killing campaigns - they use the most horrific and inhumane ways to kill them, like smashing their heads with bricks or burning them alive".

Amir also condemned the murderous army of Isil. "Let us stand up to those who act like a substitute to God and kill and punish people in the name of God," he appealed.

Read more: Meghan Markle: I had to refuse being filmed in just a towel every day

Likewise, Sameer Khan's family in Oman fear for him, as he risks the wrath of the authorities in his region by speaking out on behalf of people who aren't able to fight for their rights, such as migrant workers.

He talked about the image many Westerners have of the Middle East: "The perception is of tax-free salaries, luscious homes, an amazing life with really cheap gas. That's what everybody believes, but in reality it's very different. That infrastructure was built on the blood and bones of innocent workers," he said.

There were, of course, light moments too. One Indian lawyer was fired up by the discussion on gender politics. "It's great to see all of you women leaders here. All my bosses for the last three years have been women and I'm proud to admit those women had more balls than any men I ever worked for," he announced to cheers.

When Meghan Markle emerged from the auditorium, dozens of delegates politely mobbed her for photos and selfies, and she smilingly obliged.

"It's amazing to see how empowered and passionate they are about these causes and this week the outcome is going to be incredible. More than anything I take away is I feel braver, I feel more energised and I feel we can really make something happen," she enthused.

There were lively debates on sports and racism, and on Ireland's role in conflict resolution and on sustainability. And although it was Day Three of the summit, the level of engagement remained intense.

One young British lad appealed from the floor to Sol Campbell, who is a keen supporter of equality, to tackle racism in the sport.

"I'll help you every way I can, I'll do anything, I'll give you my business card," he insisted.

Everyone burst out laughing at his enthusiastic verve. But you can bet that his business card ended up in Campbell's pocket.

Irish Independent

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