Wednesday, July 11, 2007

CYP Interview – The Dynamic Youth Representative for Maldives

-- Commonwealth Newsletter
Ahmed Mahloof

Ahmed Mahloof is the Commonwealth Youth Programme Regional Youth Caucus Representative for Maldives

CYP Interview – The Dynamic Youth Representative for Maldives

11 July 2007

Ahmed Mahloof is the Commonwealth Youth Programme Regional Youth Caucus Representative for Maldives

He also serves as Deputy Chair of the Asia Region. This week he will be starting a 15-week radio awareness programme, so naturally CYP caught up with him before his busy schedule began.

1. When were you elected as the RYC for Maldives?

I was elected to the post at the Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting, which was held in Bahamas in 2006.

2. What does your role entail?

As RYC for Maldives, I act as the country focal point for the Commonwealth’s programmes and projects targeted to the youth audience. In this capacity, I am entrusted with laying a strong foundation in the country for youth activities under the Commonwealth banner.

At the moment, my most ambitious project involves building awareness among the Maldivian youth on the dangers of narcotic drugs. I have planned to arrange road shows, TV and radio programmes, and also arrange seminars and lectures for secondary school children across the country.

3. What are the benefits of being a RYC?

Satisfaction and pride! I do not do this for remuneration or recognition. My determination is to make a difference, however small it may be. As such, being a RYC gives me the perfect opportunity and platform to empower the Maldivian youth and to make a positive contribution to their lives.

My work as a RYC is also a learning experience for me, as it gives me the opportunity to travel, meet people from across the world, and benefit from Commonwealth training initiatives both regionally and internationally. RYC is a platform which commands the respect of national decision and policymakers. Hence, it opens many doors for me to fulfil my dreams and aspirations of contributing to the Maldivian youth.

4. What are the challenges?

I am very new to this job, so I expect far greater challenges to come my way in the time ahead. To date, I have attended the Pan-Commonwealth Youth Caucus and the Regional Youth Caucus. I have been very fortunate up to now. Some of the experiences I heard about from colleagues from other countries have so far not come my way. On the contrary, I have received tremendous support and assistance from my government, as well as from the private sector and civil society in the Maldives. The President of Maldives, His Excellency Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom offered his personal congratulations to me, on being elected as the Deputy Chair of the Asia Region. It will remain as one of my proudest moments.

The biggest challenge I foresee for the future is that of funding shortage. There are many wonderful initiatives that can be undertaken in a place like the Maldives, where the youth population is relatively large. However, the geographical disparity of the Maldives’ islands means that travelling to meet the youth is a costly affair. Transport and logistics are very difficult at times. This is also one of the main issues the Maldives face for a sustainable development. However, I am confident that I can fulfil my mandate as RYC to the fullest, and overcome these minor difficulties.

5. Tell us more about how you utilise your position to influence the youth in Maldives and Asia as a whole?

I firmly believe that youth related work cannot be done from behind an office desk. I see it as field work. Hence, I spend most of my time with the youth, sharing in their programmes and working as ‘one of them’. I try to involve as many youths as possible in every programme I undertake. Mass participation is the key to success, when it comes to youth activities. Also, I engage the government and the private sector in such initiatives. Giving them ownership and stake is very important.

I keep a close tab on issues of importance for the Maldives and for the region as a whole. So far, I have been in touch with the Asia region RYC’s by email and telephone, monitoring their work. In the Maldives though, I voice the opinions and concerns of youths at every possible juncture, whether it be economic, social or political. Giving the youth a voice is my biggest challenge here.

6. I hear you have been selected to observe the national elections in Sierra Leone. Are you looking forward it?

Definitely! It will be a great honour. To my knowledge, it will be the first time that a Maldivian will undertake the role of a Commonwealth Election Observer.

I was pleasantly surprised on receiving the invitation from the Secretary-General himself. I must thank him and his staff for the kind invitation. I really was surprised, as I got the invitation from the Secretary-General. I really thank him for inviting me.

With this invitation, I realised that the Commonwealth attaches high priority to the work of RYCs.

There are a few more people that I wish to thank. They are Mr. Raj K. Mishra, the Regional Director at the Asia Centre, Mr. Hassan Shifau, Ms Saraswathy, Mr. Kamal, Mr. Mark Stevens, Advisor and Head of the Political Affairs Division, as well as Ms Diane Mensah-Bonsu, CYP Website Coordinator at the Youth Affairs Division. They have been very supportive.

7. Tell us a bit about this radio programme you are involved in.

Narcotic drug abuse is a major social problem in the Maldives, and the youth are the main age cohort being affected by this menace. The Maldives, as I mentioned, is a country with a large youth population in percentage terms. Drug related problems pose one of the biggest challenges to this government. Hence, I decided to focus on this issue and see whether I could make a difference, in my capacity as the RYC.

I prepared an action plan to raise awareness among the youth on drugs, its adverse health and other effects, as well as avenues to support and help for victims. I have started a weekly radio programme from the 5th July 2007, to raise awareness on various aspects of drugs. This initiative is being undertaken in partnership with the state broadcaster Voice of Maldives and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. It will be a 15 programme series; aired twice a week. One will be live and the other will be a repeat. People can phone in and ask questions to a panel of experts, which will include recovered drug addicts, doctors, counselors and popular public figures. I have also arranged a prize for the youth who calls up with the best and most interesting question for the panel. Every week, we will be giving away a one gigabyte pen drive. I hope this programme will be a success.

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