23 year old Hagkin lives in West Point, one of Liberia’s biggest slums. Since his parents died Hagkin has taken responsibility for himself and his siblings. Dropping out of school meant that Hagkin could not complete his education and so he took on a vocational training course; one of the projects run by ourselves and our partners in Liberia. Since completing his training Hagkin has become a youth advocate and recently got the chance to go to Kuala lumpar for the World Urban Forum; the world’s premiere conference for urban issues. He shares his insights with us below.
As you’ve attended the world urban forum and represented your fellow beneficiaries, what is the key message you are taking to the world leaders?
My message to the world leaders is, we should try to organise our communities by upgrading slums
What can young people do to support your community?
We have to organise our selves and see how best we can take courage in some of our colleagues that do not know about our organisation. We have to organise ourselves to talk to our leaders, that is the only way we can go far. If we do nothing about it there will be no change. That is something that I took from one of the speakers. It’s about taking initiative and trying to positively advocate for our rights and for humanitarian assistance from our Government and NGOs.
What does advocacy mean to you?
It’s about putting things on the table and adressing stakeholders to see if things can be implemented, to yield results.
How does it feel to attend the world urban forum on behalf of your community?
It’s incredible, I never dreamed I would travel to Kuala Lumpar, this experience is great. I feel important and I feel that when I go back to West Point I have a responsibility to deliver what I have learnt here.
What have you been doing and what have you learnt at the World Urban Forum?
I’ve been here for a week and I’ve attended networking events, youth sessions, exhibitions and all of the sessions that are relevant to youth and slum communities. I learnt a lot about slum upgrading. I’ve learnt that organisation takes time especially when we have such rapid growth in people coming to cities and towns. In the next year slum communities being impacted significantly in terms of the well being of the community and the economic impacts of the communities. Slum communities should not be blamed just because they are slums they also make contributions to society.
What are you going to do when you get back home, with the things you have learned?
I learned that partnership is very important so I am going to organise with some of my colleagues back home and other youth advocates. I will share some of the ideas I have learnt from here and see how best we can put our efforts together to train others who are not advocates to talk on behalf of their communities.
What is your message to our partners, Y Care International and the YMCA?
I want to say a big thank you for what they have done for us in Liberia, it is incredible. We can’t thank them enough. I also want to ask them to please continue their work, It is impacting us greatly. Hopefully in the next few years we will see a large amount of youth thinking about how they can impact their communities positively and how slum communities can improve. A big thank you to everyone, it has been an incredible experience