A Global Youth Ambassador from India tells how she was almost prevented from going to a future leaders conference - and ended up being named "Best Delegate".
I was offered the opportunity to attend the Asia Pacific Future Leader Conference on youth leadership in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in December.
I learned many new things throughout my journey, as this was my first international trip alone. As a person with disabilities I have never been outside my home and city due to the lack of accessible infrastructure.
One person from my family or friends always helped me with getting things done and my day-to-day activities.
From the early years in my life I've been rejected by schools due to lack of accessible infrastructure. This has happened many times, whether it's taking a part in an activity or in a competition.
Accessibility is still a crucial issue in India, which is a developing country. Recently the government of India has started the Accessible India Campaign. I hope this will give rise to more opportunities in every field for people with disabilities.
Such people, who are otherwise sidelined, will get mainstream opportunities. It will sensitise other people as well.
Now I would like to share my experience of the Asia Pacific Future Leader Conference and one achievement with you all. The theme of this year’s conference was based on the Sustainable Development Goals.
What are the SDGs? The Sustainable Development Goals, or simply Global Goals, are a continuation from the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, which changed the face of the world over 15 years.
Just step outside the world you are living in. Explore your hidden self. Magic happens outside of your comfort zone.
An increasingly complex world needs to address this global issue. The objectives of the SDGs include a universal scale with a comprehensive framework in assisting the countries of the world toward sustainable development through three approaches. These are economic development, openness in the social order and environmental sustainability.
What is the Asia Pacific Future Leader Conference? It is an official programme organised by Asia Pacific Leader Initiative (APLI) in collaboration with Studec International (an education consultancy based in the ASEAN area).
APLI is an independent youth community which accommodates youth in the Asia Pacific region in order to build international networks, upgrade skills and exchange activities. In addition, APLI endeavours to increase education, leadership and cultural entrepreneurship, and heighten awareness of skills through the teachings of experts and mentors.
On my way to Malaysia, the airport authority denied my entrance on to the aircraft because of my "this-ability" (because according to me this is an ability not disability). At this time I was alone in the airport so they asked me to call my parents and go back.
I cried, I fought with them for my rights and I made it. I convinced them how important it is for me to attend this conference as an Indian delegate. Finally they agreed to send me alone.
In the first two days of the conference we had the chance to listen to eminent speakers presenting their views on SDGs. On the third day we brainstormed sessions on sustainability and leadership skills. In this session every team had to present one Sustainable Development Goal, with problems and solutions for future generations to survive.
I presented a sustainable model for inclusive and accessible education with the consideration of SDG4, quality education.
My team and I proposed an inclusive model for education, irrespective of their religion, deformity, gender or skin colour.
If change is to be achieved, the delivery edge at grassroots level needs to be sharpened. Education is the only key to social change.
I feel that there will be a day when people adapt to the values of inclusiveness, tolerance and acceptance, irrespective of their caste, sex or religion, and this will create an equal society. I believe ignorance can be a cause of suffering for future generations and, for that matter, we need to fight against all odds.
The chosen places for this great event were wheelchair-friendly, which helped me enjoy this conference. Kuala Lumpur is accessible and its wheelchair-friendly public facilities ensured that I had comfortable mobility throughout the city.
At the end of the conference, I was awarded "Best Delegate". 300 participants from around 30 countries were present and 14 delegates from India had been selected. It was more like a self-development or a youth leadership training programme for promoting the Sustainable Development Goals.
As the change agents we all need to have a third eye to note simple acts and we have to work for the same thing. The Asia Pacific Future Leaders Conference gave me a new insight into looking at problems and finding solutions.
The knowledge I gained from this conference will help me to promote education, which is crucial in making a country peaceful and stable. The cultural exchange programme encouraged us to promote peace and educate people in order to make inclusiveness possible.
In the end I just want to say one thing. Just step outside the world you are living in. Explore your hidden self. Magic happens outside of your comfort zone.