CYP Blog Post - Commonwealth Day
14th March 2023
Isobel Lawson, one of Jersey's delegates to 2022's Commonwealth Youth Parliament, shares her experience of participating in the event, organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
In line with celebrating Commonwealth Day, I wanted to reflect on the incredible experience I had last November at the 11th Commonwealth Youth Parliament in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Commonwealth Youth Parliament sees aspiring political leaders from countries across the Commonwealth come together to practically learn the role and purpose of parliaments as institutions for democracy and good governance, through mock parliamentary debates, mentoring sessions and conferences.
Representing Jersey as their youth delegate was one of the most formative political experiences I had last year. Attending this event in Trinidad, I had no idea how much I would learn and grow as an individual. I gained knowledge on parliamentary procedures, had the opportunity to speak in the mock debate, and was asked to give the final address on behalf of the delegates at the closing ceremony.
Additionally, I had the honour of meeting the British High Commissioner and hearing about the diplomatic work she carries out in Trinidad and Tobago promoting gender and sexual equality. The advice gained from the Commonwealth Youth Parliament mentors, all young Caribbean MPs, was inspirational as well - as they reminded the delegates that 'as a politician standing in parliament you are no longer representing yourself, but the people who only have a voice through you.'
However, it was through interacting with the 53 other Commonwealth Youth delegates in which I learnt the most. The passion that every single young person attending the Commonwealth Youth Parliament had for improving their nations; socially, environmentally, economically and culturally, was undeniable. With the recent change in the Head of the Commonwealth after the death of HM Queen Elizabeth ll, the future of the Commonwealth organisation has been questioned by many. But meeting the other delegates, I was given a glimpse into what the future of the Commonwealth could be - a joining of people willing to acknowledge their differences and the problematic aspects of Commonwealth history, yet not letting that inhibit their drive to connect with individuals from across the globe and work together to make the future of the Commonwealth community a better place for all.
There was an instinctive solidarity between the youth delegates. Warmly welcomed in Trinidad, we were given space to connect over shared experiences, and challenge one another over political biases and opinions in a safe environment that allowed for personal growth.
I often find myself thinking back to those 5 days I spent in Trinidad and Tobago. I still speak to friends I made there, and we reflect together on the possibility individuals have, no matter how young, to bring about political change for good. Even Jersey, a small island in the English Channel, has just as much potential as larger countries to make positive global impacts.
Thank you to everyone who worked to create this opportunity for myself and the other Commonwealth Youth Parliament delegates. Thank you for re-grounding my idea of what a politician can, and should stand for: being a voice for people who do not necessarily have one.
And to the other delegates, with the dreams that you dream and strive to achieve, it is you that give me hope for the future of our Commonwealth.
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