I am a young leader fellow who was selected as World Contraception Day Ambassador to create the York Region Youth Health Network and sexual health project.
I am an impassioned citizen of the Commonwealth, who believes strongly in the role of young people in making our policies, governments and institutions fairer and more compassionate. It is in the spirit of these values that I am applying for the role of Vice Chairperson — Policy and Advocacy for the Commonwealth Youth Council. I am passionate about international development, public policy and governance and how they intersect. The intersection between gender, research and policy is an area I am especially committed and passionate. I believe my academic and professional background to be beneficial and complimentary to the role of Vice Chairperson — Policy and Advocacy through the below competencies and qualifications which includes my interpersonal, expertise, principles and values as well as passion and drive.
My background and work internationally and within Canada has focused on gender equality and the advancement of sexual and reproductive health rights at a community level. Through working abroad, I have developed my interpersonal skills in working within culturally diverse communities with varying religious, social and cultural practices. I worked in Republic of Georgia with the Georgian Ministry of education on community development projects in a small village. This included advocacy for keeping young girls in school versus entering marriage. This involved me living and working with Georgian families and exclusively Georgian colleagues. I also worked for the United Nations Development Programme in Chile and Canada World Youth in Indonesia. Both included working and living in communities and with local stakeholders. In Indonesia, it included project managing a group of nine Canadian and nine Indonesians. This involved working in open dialogue, cross cultural understanding and communication. Working with those whose focus area or region is different than my own would not be an issue but would be a welcomed perspective on diversity and cross-cultural learning.
Leadership and developing a lead by example mentality has been an integral aspect of my personal and professional development. This includes creating strong communication, dialogue and commitment to engaging others in diverse issues relating to politics, SRHR, development. In my position as a project manager and a supervisor working for a Canadian social enterprise working with refugee and indigenous communities, I lead by example with a strong foundation of providing open and communicative dialogue between communities and with staff. This included serving as a role model for direct reports as well as mentoring student placements, volunteers and youth members of staff. Curating communication was also a big part of this role, which included creating fundraising, advocacy and internal communication to stakeholders that is direct, informative and to the point. My work on creating advocacy campaigns as well as partnership campaigns for fundraising were successful and involved direct monetary investment into non-profit and social enterprise initiatives. This included tailoring campaigns and messages toward stakeholders and making campaigns that differ according to government relations, corporate social responsibility and community members.
Leadership components have also included for me creating non-formal education and Investing in communities. I was a part of a founding pilot group during my time at the University of Guelph called ‘Campus Ubuntu’ which used the principle definition of Ubuntu ‘I am because we are’. It included leading a group of culturally diverse students and community members from various education, religious, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds in dialogue. We formed weekly discussion groups and events focused around peace and tolerance, intercultural learning and unifying despite and because of differences. Within my own community, through my selection as a Women Deliver Young Leader Fellow from 2015-2018, I was further selected as a World Contraception Day Ambassador. I was provided with a grant to implement a community project focused on SRHR. I created the York Region Youth Health Network and the York Region Youth Sexual Health Empowerment Project which is a digital media project which provided free, accessible and attainable resources and education to youth in my home community of York Region. This had a specific focus and emphasis on refugee and indigenous groups. I created a website platform, podcast, e-book translated in numerous languages and workshop series. This included working with local stakeholders to implement advocacy change from the group up. It also provided me the integral skills of online activism, which included outreach, coalition building and collaboration with local, national and international organizations. The York Region Youth Health Network continues to exist and is being developed for a tool kit that will be distributed to youth across the country to create digital media sexual health and education information specific to their own communities.
This is an important aspect of my ability to adapting and innovate, while creating and developing a pioneering process that was successful and influenced my own community. As a
young woman growing up in York Region, which is rural, SRHR education was limited and resulted in numerous women I know becoming victims of sexual violence, teen mothers or diagnosed with STI/HIV. Creating this project was my own personal homage to the women of my generation not receiving the education and information they deserved. I am committed to ensuring this project, and my work, adapts to circumstances of communities. My drive, passion and determination is related to making a living while making an impact, and doing so in a way that is reflective of tolerance, respect and ensuring future generations are better off than the ones before it.
My experience and background in policy, planning and analysis includes both work and academic experiences. I have been committed to planning and analysis through my organizational and academics. I have strong time management skills and ability to meet critical deadlines. This includes the ability to monitor organizational and personal deadlines in a way that is necessary for success. In my position with SEC and Campus Ubuntu, this has included grant writing deadlines as well as reporting internal staff information. In regard to analyzing complex information and problems, I am able to take information and relay it into a more simplified and easy to understand issue. This has been very important for communication and dialogue. In my work with the Federal Government of Canada in the Statistics Canada branch as a Field Researcher, I was able to compute complicated issues into easily accessible and relatable information. This was especially beneficial toward working with marginalized communities and ensuring that complex government and policy level information is accessible by all socioeconomic, educational and language backgrounds. This is an important component of my values in ensuring that informal education and policies are simple and understandable.
My academic background as it relates to policy and planning includes my current undertaking of a double Masters of Science in Public Policy and Human Development at the United Nations University — Merit and Maastricht University. This has provided me with a strong professional expertise toward understanding policy and policy analysis. I have been continually committed throughout my career toward proactive continual learning and developing. This has included a Women Deliver SRHR course, certificates from Harvard School of Business in International Business and Leadership Management and training courses in Global and Adolescent Health and Anti-Oppression training.
My principles and values can primarily be reflected in my commitment to intersectional feminism and ensuring diversity in public, private and youth spaces. Respect for diversity and promoting tolerance amongst my interactions is of the utmost importance in my past, present and future work. I have been continually devoted to respecting diversity and equity, including when working internationally and within the context of other cultures. This has included working with refugee and indigenous communities in Canada. Notably, working within my own rural community and promoting diversity and equity. The importance of diversity and promotion of tolerance, especially amongst marginalized communities, has had to include an important aspect of holding myself accountable to learning and development. Holding myself accountable has included not only honoring my commitment, outputs and devotion to projects and jobs, but also taking ownership of standards of diversity and my own personal role in making youth spaces safer, more diverse and accessible. I have grown to recognize my own privileges and to navigate this in a way that makes a change. This includes admitting mistakes, active listening and a lifelong commitment to learning.
My engagement with the Commonwealth has included adhering to principles, values and striving to support the Commonwealth in pursuit of its aims. Over the last two years, this has included engagement with programs that reflect the role of young people in the
Commonwealth. I was selected as part of the Commonwealth Women’s Mentorship pilot scheme as well as selected as a highly commended Runner Up for the Queen’s Young Leader Program for 2018. I have also engaged with the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors
Network and completed a training course on Hate Speech and Discrimination at the
Commonwealth. I have been dedicated to ensuring that my representation of the
Commonwealth through these appointments has been genuine and respected the diversity of youth across the Commonwealth. I have committed in the last two years to become involved in these Commonwealth initiatives to better understand the values and principles of the Commonwealth and the role that I can play within it. This has included extensive learning, engagement and studying of peace, countering violent extremism, diversity/tolerance and youth participation in in the political sphere. Working with youth from across the Commonwealth from different backgrounds has provided me significant enrichment and growing opportunities that would only increase with involvement in the Commonwealth Youth Council.
My personal background has centered around these aspects and passions and how they relate to making the world for youth a fairer, more just and more compassionate one. I have devoted my academic, work and volunteer experiences toward these leadership commitments and values both internationally and within my own community.
As a Project Development Manager for a regional and national development organization I am responsible for the supervision of 25 staff and additional volunteers, interns and placement students. This includes training in program development, project specific training and human rights/anti-oppression training. I have experience implementing open forum based training and learning as well as facilitation cross-cultural and dialogue that spans religious and social differences. Peer to peer learning has taken place on all work and volunteer experiences through my advocacy career, beginning in September 2011 through Ubuntu Organization organizing resistance and dialogue for marginalized groups toward the University of Guelph. Peer to peer learning allows for engaging conversation and different perspectives on topics and true growth.
I have worked extensively among diverse groups of people on human rights projects. I worked in Republic of Georgia with the Georgian Ministry of education on community development projects in a small village. This included advocacy for keeping young girls in school versus entering marriage. This involved me living and working with Georgian families and exclusively Georgian colleagues. I also worked for the United Nations Development Programme in Chile and Canada World Youth in Indonesia. Both included working and living in communities and with local stakeholders. In Indonesia it included project managing a group of nine Canadian and nine Indonesians. This involved working in open dialogue, cross cultural understanding and communication. Working with defenders whose focus area or region is different than my own would not be an issue but would be a welcomed perspective on diversity and cross-cultural learning.
The main advocacy tools I currently use are digital media, coalition building and grassroots community development projects. This includes working with local stakeholders to implement advocacy change from the ground up. The areas of digital media also center on ‘online activism’ – which includes outreach of women who live in rural, isolated populations. Coalition building includes working with organizations such as Women Deliver, International Youth Action for Family Planning and Canada World Youth who all align under the SDG I s and the advancement of women’s rights – especially in regard to sexual and reproductive health. The main challenges faced in working in digital media/advocacy is the disconnect and perceived validity of online activism. There is also the connect in the formal sphere of advocacy – international bodies and regulating groups such as the UN and it’s mechanisms. This disconnect often leaves digital advocacy and the work done through it (online petitions, emails to MPs/governments on issues, market black out, boycotts, etc.) not as recognized through traditional understanding of advocacy. However, due to globalization and the readily available internet there is the opportunity for a wider range of regional and national connectivity. Information and advocacy tools are spread easier and have a wider reach. It has also been my experienced in digital advocacy that it is more inclusive – as there are more tools to avoid ableism and further isolation.
The biggest key result that has been achieved has come through the York Region Youth Health Network which included advocacy for York region youth sexual and reproductive health. The key results were that resources (an e-book, podcast and information sharing) were provided to young people through organizations, schools and available through networks.
My manifesto, both political and otherwise, is rooted in a commitment to human rights, diversity and the role youth play in not only in the future, but in the present of the Commonwealth. This includes working toward a fairer and prosperous future by understanding the need for more diverse governments, sustainable development and youth engagement at the forefront of each policy, activity and program. Through my background I have devoted my academic, work and volunteer experiences to these principles, and would continue to do so through engagement in the Commonwealth.
Personally, and professionally, I have always fought for the underdog and used my voice and democratic capabilities to put forth the future I believe is necessary not only for young Canadians or as a member of the Commonwealth, but as a global citizen. I would continue to do this in my proposed role and to embody fairness while continually learning, engaging and differing to others within the Commonwealth who have varying perspectives and expertise. I am committed to the process of continually learning, growing and shaping my beliefs and ideals around new knowledge. At my core, my manifesto is embodied in wanting to provide the current, and next generation, of young people with more opportunities, prosperity, rights and education.
An important component of my political belief is enacting policy that promotes democracy, governance and the promotion of human rights. A democratic process that ensures that due diligence and fair electoral process is important toward establishing integrity of good governments within the Commonwealth. I also belief strongly in the need for accountability and transparency, especially in regard to enacting policies that affect human rights and marginalized communities. The democratic process cannot be implemented without transparency, honesty and continual evaluation of the systems that are in place. Especially in this regard, the need to dismantle oppressive systems is especially
Taking action and protecting democratic principles is an important step that must include the inclusion of youth in the political sphere. I believe strongly in the role that young people can play in governments currently, not in a future after some proposed or defined age of acceptance. Young people deserve a seat at the table of political power that has voting abilities and the ability to influence their own communities and country. It is an important aspect of democracy to represent the voices across an entire population, including youth voices. I would advocate for policies that are outside of pre-determined “youth issues” but rather under the belief that all political issues are youth issues. The youth perspective, and its role in shaping the Commonwealth and the democratic process, is an integral one to vote for and invest in. This goes outside of the tokenized perception of youth in the democratic process, and provides a stronger investment into the actual political system. I firmly believe and am committed to policies that empower young people to make political decisions, actions and places in government institutions across the Commonwealth.
My commitment to human rights has been formulated most importantly through my past experiences working internationally and within my own community. The essentials of human rights need to be at the basis of all work that individuals, policies, committees and organizations undertake. I believe firmly in essential human rights across the
Commonwealth and globally. This includes access and rights to education, clean drinking water, food provisions, equitable work and pay, democratic system and voting, freedom of expression, standard of health and living and all other components of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The fundamentals of fighting for those who are receiving unequitable and unjust conditions under these human rights is at the core of my current work and the work I would want to undertake with the Commonwealth. I must recognize my own privileges within my home country of Canada, and that there are others without the same privileges I am afforded by simply being born in a certain place. I acknowledge that there must be significant change in many oppressive human rights situations across the globe and in my own country, especially in regard to indigenous and refugee groups. The foundation of human rights being at the center of all work provides an outcome of sustainability and investment into the future of citizens across the globe and the Commonwealth. This can only be through sustainable development projects, locally driven and led development and through youth representing youth. There is not a need to speak for others, but to amplify marginalized voices to speak for themselves in spaces typically not reserved or given to them. I believe strongly in using and acknowledging my own privileges and using them for good. These aspects of human rights work are fundamental to the connection of diversity, engagement of youth and the promotion of global international development in way free of exploiting and perpetuating oppressive systems.
I am fully committed to celebrating and embracing the diversities of The Commonwealth, and the globe. The diversity of the Commonwealth, with a combined population of 2.4 billion people, represents an important and necessary global priority. A great deal of my fundamental belief in diversity comes from growing up in Canada where multiculturalism is at a core value. Canada is a country that stands on indigenous land first and foremost, but is currently made up largely of a population that is truly multicultural in representation. The continual work, open dialogue and communication it requires to embody multiculturalism and diversity is something that I bring toward my work and my belief in how to make communities, organizations and policies stronger.
I am devoted in my role to diminishing discrimination, intolerance and stereotypes across The Commonwealth through providing policy that is rooted in equity and peace focused principles. This focus on diversity represents my strong belief in intersectionality. I am rooted in my committed and belief in intersectionality and intersectional feminism. This importantly includes the intersection of race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity. This belief system guides my work, outlook and how I would create policy that affects not only women but those of all gender, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities and lived experiences across the Commonwealth. Intersectional feminism, for me, as a belief system, is embodied in caring for the equity and equality of others. It is engaging in how another’s experience can shed light on your own personal difference and create new perspectives and inter-cultural dialogue. I firmly believe that only through a more diverse and open Commonwealth will there be a shift in mindset and priorities for youth.
The future I envision for the Commonwealth represents one where diversity is not only about tolerance, but rooted in policy and advocacy that leads to communication and facilitated acceptance. It is founded in policy where misconceptions across the
Commonwealth are diminished and the prejudice that fuels discrimination, extremism and violence is eliminated and replaced with tolerance, engagement, open dialogue and peace building. The very component of building upon peace and supporting peaceful resolution is a key toward these principles and to providing the next generation a world that is free of discrimination, extremism and the further violence that plagues many regions of the world. The notion of peace, and engaging in meaningful discussions about the militarized and oppressive reasons behind extremism. I hope to be a part of a generation and a future that promotes peace at a community, regional, national and international level. This action scales from personal ones all the way up toward institutional ones. I hope to be a part of the necessary institutional change that includes peace work as a prominent point of action.
The diversities of the Commonwealth are not only represented in human rights and discrimination, but also in job creation, economic growth and prosperity of citizens. The Commonwealth is made up of numerous countries, including emerging economies. By promoting diversity and the benefit that different countries can offer, there can be more job creation, sustainability and fair-trade practices. The focus on trade and economy within the Commonwealth is important in that it represents a present and future that is non-exploitive and is balanced away from power dynamics. This is an important distinction, and is a formulate part of my belief that all Commonwealth countries, regardless of economic status, should be a part of equitable and fair-trade economies and investments. This means evaluating power and privilege dynamics between countries and creating policies that are reflective of fairness and creating open dialogue and promotion of employment of young people. That promotion, cannot come at the expense of others, and must be truly sustainable at its’ core. Economic freedom and prosperity through trade must also be cognizant of international trade that is oppressive at its root. This includes evaluating and understanding the current foreign aid situation between countries in the Global North and Global South which often perpetuates continual cycles of poverty and dependence. A focus on trades and policies that are centered on sustainable development, equity and empowerment are necessary from the top-down. I am a firm believer in creating policies and systems that are hoping to change this radically and hold those values of peace, inclusion and sustainability at the forefront.
Economically, I also believe firmly that the only way to involve young people in economies is for direct investment into youth. This is especially in regard to youth created and youth-led projects and endeavors. The investment of young people’s ideas, business, social entrepreneurship and communities should be at the forefront of how to support young people into the present and future. This can be done through grants, scholarships, education funds, or direct monetary support. As an example, I have been on the receiving end of grants that focused on my sexual and reproductive health awareness in my own community, and was able to implement a digital media project focused on refugee and marginalized communities unequitable access to education. This was integral to my understanding of how international organizations can establish youth empowerment that is tangible, with real results and outcomes while still allowing young people to maintain their integrity, responsibility and values.
One of the largest parts of my manifesto and belief system falls upon the need for gender equality to be a continual goal across the Commonwealth and the world. There is substantial work that must be done on gender-based violence, especially in regard to rape and sexual assault. This also includes the disproportionate amount that poverty, climate change and displacement affects women and young girls. The foundation of having gender equality in advocacy and policies ensures that there is a balance and need to have representation. This includes Trans, two-spirited and non-binary women who are often marginalized outside of this process. I believe whole heartedly in the need for working toward a Commonwealth that is free from sexual assault as a weapon, and being a part of a system that recognizes the violence women face in public spaces, work places, within government and often in their own homes. This can be linked toward economic opportunities with equal pay, but it goes beyond this factor when ensuring that sexual and reproductive health rights are represented and accounted for. Much of my work and values has centered around my lived experience as a woman, and instances of violence that I have seen working abroad, within my own community, and what was inflicted on myself. In the spirit of diversity, human rights, and embodying the voices of others through intersectionality, I end this not with my own words but with those of Audre Lorde. Audre Lorde taught me and embodies my belief in standing up for human rights, in celebrating the difficulties of life changing work and standing on your belief system to make the future better for others. “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” It is in this essence and spirit that my manifesto exists
Research Paper — Melissa Fairey