Getting involved: International school students from 15 countries shared advice--and inspiration--on how they can make a difference during the recent Global Issues Network Conference in Kirchberg.
Photo: LaLa La Photo
“The aim of the conference is to be informative and inspirational,” stated Iain Sachdev, principal at the International School of Milan. “We sow seeds to motivate students around the globe into action, but it is what happens afterwards that is most important.” He was speaking during the 11th Global Issues Network Conference, which was organised by the International School of Luxembourg and took place from 17-19 March at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce.
The Global Issues Network is an international umbrella group that empowers young people to create positive change in the world. Founded in 2003 by a group of concerned educators from a handful of international schools in Europe, GIN has grown into a worldwide network that counts more than 1,000 schools and over 100,000 members in the world. Sachdev said that students meet on a weekly basis and not only address real concerns but also take action.
This year’s GIN conference involved 30 international schools, representing 15 countries, with around 200 educators and students from all over the globe. “Caring for humanity, our duty” was the theme. Alongside plenary meetings with guest speakers, students gave presentations about all kinds of issues, from the water crisis in South Sudan, poverty and sex trafficking to gender inequality, bullying, the drugs war, media corruption, environmental problems, migration and the refugee crisis.
On Friday representatives from Luxembourg-based NGOs--Caritas, Unicef, CSI Luxembourg and Médecins Sans Frontières gave presentations and responded to questions at the conference. “We built a school in South Sudan with money raised by a secondary school in Echternach who organised a one-hour run. There is so much you can do,” according to Sandra Scheuren of CSI Luxembourg.
Many GIN clubs have responded to the refugee crisis by organising collections of clothes, money and food. “We have a lot of contact with the people that we help. We’ve raised donations by organising bake sales and collecting clothes,” said Melisa Ozbayrakci, a student at the Izmir American Collegiate Institute. Most students join GIN because they are passionate about a global issue, want to help people, be more active and raise awareness.
#HeForShe: Stand Together
The #HeForShe campaign, launched by the actress Emma Watson at the UN in September 2014, aims to tackle the stigma surrounding feminism and has gained much momentum and support worldwide. Eline Munster and Maria Scherbakova from the ISL gave an interactive presentation on Friday morning underlining the campaign’s mission statement: “Gender equality is not just a women’s issue, it’s a human rights issue.”
The message was clear: it is everybody’s duty to promote gender equality. “We need to get rid of the negative connotations and false perceptions that have wrongly become associated with feminism,” said Maria Scherbakova.
The girls advised their fellow GIN members on how to promote the campaign and that it is about empowering both women and men. The key is to be informed and to educate yourself and others around you, which goes for all of the global issues presented by the students at the conference.