Students at Nilai U's Youth Empowerment Symposium urged to be activists by keynote speaker.
"Think not of those who say that Malaysians are an apathetic lot, and that there is nothing we can do collectively to improve the conditions of our people," extols Edmund Bon. "Activate yourselves and others around you to act towards building self-determining and self-sustaining communities who can stand up for yourselves." These powerful and challenging words were directed towards more than 100 participants at this year's Youth Empowerment Symposium (YES), in which Bon was the keynote speaker.
Organised by Nilai University (Nilai U), in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education, the World Youth Foundation and the Universiti Putra Malaysia, YES is designed to prompt youth into action by helping identify areas of concern, and how young people can be agents of change. With such a purview, it is befitting that a lawyer and human rights activist was asked to speak about the theme of this year's event – 'Rights, Roles and Responsibilities'.
During his speech, Bon reaffirmed the need for youth to be proactive members of their respective societies. It is not enough that the participants wait for an election once every five years to be involved in the democratic process. Bon asked how many participants were actually registered voters and if so, whether they knew or had met their current local parliamentarian.
The two-day event which was held at Nilai U's campus in Putra Nilai also saw a video conference with April Wright from American volunteer organisation Dosomething.org. Participants were briefed on how that organisation leveraged on celebrities to gain momentum among youth to get into a culture of volunteerism. Many pointers were shared on how participants can get a project launched and to gain maximum exposure for the cause.
However, it was not all listening for the participants as they, too, made a number of presentations on topics ranging from the environment to HIV/AIDS awareness. The latter presentation was picked by the participants themselves as the best presentation of the event with the students putting forward a number of ideas on how to improve awareness on the social maladies affecting the country.
A group leader, Thiban Sandramuti (Nilai U BSc (Hons) in Biotechnology), said despite AIDS/HIV being a problem for decades, awareness is still very low in the country and very much a taboo subject. He was full of praise for the event as it has instilled in him a sense of empowerment and belief that he can make a difference. "Never have I realised the importance of the roles played by youths until I joined this programme. All thanks to YES for all the inspirational speeches and workshop sessions which serve as an eye-opener for me," says Thiban.
Bon remarked that by deciding to participate in YES, the students had made a conscious effort to be engaged in their own society. Given the enthusiasm and earnestness in which the students applied themselves over the course of the event, it was obvious to see that the seeds of social involvement had truly been planted.
Nilai U was established in 1997 and aims to produce well-rounded graduates. To achieve this, its administrators regularly organise and host events such as YES, the Future Leaders Camp and the International Cultural festival with the aim of broadening student perspectives. For more information on these events, please go to www.nilai.edu.my or call 06-8502338 / 07-226 2336 / 03-7960 3089 / 088-238 811