1 July 2022
Sagufta Elected as the Pacific Regional Representative for Commonwealth Youth Council
The Executive Director of Outsource Fiji and Commonwealth 2020 Youth Award winner for the Pacific region, Ms Sagufta Janif, has been elected as the Pacific Regional Representative for the Commonwealth Youth Council at the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2022 (#CYF22) held in Kigali, Rwanda between 20 June and 26 June 2022.
The Commonwealth Youth Forum 2022 which was held in parallel with the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2022 (#CHOGM22), saw Ms Janif speaking at the intergenerational dialogue which brought together youth leaders and heads of government from the member states.
“I am grateful to represent my region at the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2022, because most of the times they (our youths) are not included, and their voices are not heard – especially in forums like this…We all are aware of the problems the people in the Pacific battle with so, I will not talk about those anymore. Instead, I would like to bring forward solutions that we can work on as one commonwealth”.
“During COVID, while the developed nations had access to remote work and remote learning opportunities, our people were left behind because our young people living in remote island communities do not have access to reliable and affordable ICT infrastructure. So today, I call upon you to support us so we can have access to high quality sustainable digital infrastructure, digital inclusion and digital literacy for the young people in the Pacific, especially for those living in remote island communities”, she said.
Ms Janif added, “Access to reliable ICT infrastructure will help us diversify our economy, which has been reliant on tourism for decades, and during the pandemic, the entire industry was disrupted. Thousands of people lost their jobs. We need to create new markets and opportunities, like the development of the outsourcing and ICT sector which has the capability of creating thousands of jobs and we have seen this work already”.
Ms Janif also represented Fijii’s youth at the Co-Creating and Strategic Partnerships panel discussion, where she spoke about Outsource Fiji’s partnerships with the Fijian Government, donor agencies like Market Development Facility (MDF), and international governments and Trade offices to build a conducive environment for Fiji’s outsourcing industry, and create employment for young Fijians.
“Before the pandemic, we formed an industry association where we gathered businesses who are in the outsourcing sector, infrastructure providers and other key leaders who were involved in the industry’s progression, and we realized that the industry was getting traction in terms of employment creation, especially for young Fijians. At that point, we had about two thousand Fijians employed in the sector with almost sixty-seven percent of the people were below the age of thirty.”
“During the pandemic, we saw an exponential growth in the Outsourcing Sector, where the sector grew from having employed two thousand Fijians, to seven thousand plus Fijians. This happened because Fiji was being looked as a risk diversification location for outsourcing services. This growth would not have happened if we were not able to create strategic partnerships with development partners and work with the Fijian Government. So, what we did as an industry association, is we lobbied to the government for tax incentives and a better investment environment for BPO and ICT operators, which also aligned with their vision and goal of creating employment for the people of Fiji”, added Ms Janif.
Responding to the young people at this forum, the President of Rwanda, His Excellency Paul Kagame, promised to continue listening to and working with young people.
Echoing sentiments of H.E Paul Kagame, Canadian Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, who was also present at the intergenerational dialogue, highlighted the importance of including young people in solutions to today’s challenges. “We don’t need you to be leaders of tomorrow, we need you to be the leaders you are today. You should be directly contributing to the policies and positions of the Commonwealth.”
Agreeing, Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon. Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa told the participants “Governments can no longer do things by themselves, whether we ever thought we could. However, there is growing acknowledgment that governments are not enough. In going forward, we need to ensure all of society is involved.”
Seychelles President H.E. Wavel Ramkalawan highlighted the need to engage young people in politics: “As we go about campaigning, we realise our young people become disconnected with the politics. It’s only by getting in, that you will make your voice heard. And changes will happen. […] You are leaders in your own rights.”
The Commonwealth Youth Forum during CHOGM provides an opportunity for young people of the Commonwealth to build cross-cultural connections and networks, deliberate on youth-led initiatives addressing emerging issues impacting young people, strategize on perspectives to influence decision-makers and ensure young people have a voice and agency in its future.
Led by a ten-member executive, the CYC acts as a coalition of national youth councils and other youth-led civil society and private sector bodies from across the 56 member countries of the Commonwealth. The CYF reinforced young people’s involvement across the Commonwealth in devising solutions to complex global challenges as well as providing intergenerational spaces to enhance their ability to bring forward meaningful recommendations to the Heads of Government meeting.