My name's Shakira Choonara. I'm from South Africa. In 2015, I attended the European Development Days in Brussels and spoke on high level panels alongside global decision makers.
1- How did participation in the EDD assist with projects back home?
Being selected and participating in EDD15 as a young leader bolstered my profile including health related work and achievements globally, nationally and locally. Funders for the Resilient and Responsive Health System (RESYST) project UK AID (Department of International Development) representatives reached out with congratulations for being selected as a young leader. The projects work and profile was promoted on various platforms – through EDD, on social media and local South African media which the communication team has documented as an impact story/ achievement for the project particularly linked to youth voices http://resyst.lshtm.ac.uk/impact/discussing-resilient-health-systems-dr-margaret-chan-%EF%BF%BCan-interview-shakira-choonara
Through the EDD, it was an honour and privilege to be selected as one of the first Editors to conceptualise and establish the Young Leaders for Development Blog alongside co-editor and fellow Young Leader Marion Osieyo. The platform is critical in bringing together youth voices to track progress, monitor implementation and the ultimate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A definite highlight was recognition from European Commission for International Development and Cooperation Neven Mimica during EDD16!
2- What recognition did I recieve as a Young Leader in local media, CSOs, private sector and public institutions?
Being selected as a Young Leader for Health in 2015 led to various stakeholders considering me to be an expert and leader within the field of healthcare. The University of the Witwatersrand, Faculty of Health Sciences in South Africa bestowed me with a special recognition award for participation in the EDD, in addition I was featured in a quarterly feature profiling leaders within the university.
The work I do extends beyond healthcare to advocating for non-racism, as a young alumnus of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation leadership programme the EDD experience and contribution was profiled. Significant interest in the work I’m involved in was profiled on various national and local news media such as the Lenasia Sun which led to various individuals and organisations from the community reaching out to me. Post the EDD, I was recognised as a young leader in my field and profiled/ interviewed women on various radio platforms for Women’s Month in the country in August 2016. More recently (2017), I have been nominated for a Women of the Year Award in healthcare by the Women of Stature Network in South Africa, the opportunities are endless being a young leader!
3- Concrete cooperation with the stakeholders I have met after the Forum?
During EDD15, after speaking at a high-level panel with Federica Mogherini and Sam Kutessa about corruption, aid and development in Africa I was approached by representatives from Anti-Corruption International (ACI), through which there is continued engagement around fighting corruption in Africa, particularly though established chapters such as ACI Uganda.
4- Invitations to other important international events attributed to EDD participation?
Certainly, a career highlight post the EDD was being invited to the historic adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in 2015. Several other notable achievements included being selected as a fully-funded youth scholarship recipient for the exciting Women Deliver Conference in 2016. In September 2016, the Junior Public Health Association of South Africa (JuPHASA) extended an invitation to give the opening address of the 2016 conference (Youth at the Centre of SDGs) and more recently I have been invited as a young South African representative speak and participate in a Youth Dialogue –Africa and the achievement of the SDGs,which will be hosted by the UONGOZI Institute in Tanzania (Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development) in March 2017.
5- What have I learned about EU involvement in development and young people?
Personally, I would describe the EDD as allowing for true youth inclusivity, as a young leader we were given the opportunity to voice our thoughts on high-level panels which rarely happen in the development sphere, moreover despite our age (21-26 years) were seen and considered to be experts in our respective field. Moreover, it is unlikely that youth are allowed direct interaction and enngement with high-level representatives from the European Union (EU), United Nations and even the World Health Organization in our own country settings, but through the EDD we were afforded opportunities to do so. The EDD Young Leaders programme effectively breaks down barriers between high level representatives and the youth, for example I had the opportunity of voicing my thoughts and ideas around Ebola with the highest authority of WHO – Director General Dr Margaret Chan. The Young leaders initiative offers insight into the value, impact and true youth inclusivity which other development agencies, organisations and even our own national governments should draw on.