Alhamdulilah, I have arrived safely back in Sudan after a short-but-informative trip to Malaysia for the Asia Pacific Roundtable, the Australia-ASEAN Emerging Leaders Program (supported by the Aus-Malaysia Institute, ISIS Malaysia, St James Ethics Centre, Asialink, Australia-Thailand Institute (ATI) and the Australia-Indonesia Institute (AII)) and a lunch event with young Malaysian leaders and the Australian High Commission. Woah, a mouthful! Now that the official part is over...
It was a fantastic week, and as some of the previous posts can attest to, I learnt a great deal: much I am still processing. The Emerging Leaders part of the program gave us (about 20 young people from Australia and ASEAN) an opportunity to present on and discuss issues of import to the region, including illicit migration, regional security and the effect of middle powers. St James Ethics Center's Dr Simon Longstaff also presented an extremely moving and interesting piece on "the biggest strategic mistake leaders make..." . I won't give it away but suffice it to say that it has a lot to do with leaders just "looking away" and how often do they do that? Thing Houla -- quite often indeed.
On the last day of my stay, I was fortunate enough Alhamdulilah to be a Guest of Honour at a lunch hosted by the Australian High Commission and an Aussie Muslim Diplomat (which I think it totally awesome). It was an awesome opportunity to meet the staff of the High Commission and spend some time with young Malaysian leaders. I shared a little of my life story (haha! the poor audience) and tried to listen to the stories of the people around me.
It was a great opportunity to shift some of the thinking about Australian in Malaysia. It seems that there is a particular impression (or stereotype let's say), of what Australia as a nation is and represents, and the fact that a Hijabi-wearing-brown-skinned-young-female is up representing Australia...well that challenges a few of those assumptions.
It was also an opportunity to hear about some of the issues that face young people in Malaysia - and interesting, being young and full of ideas is one of them. Growing up in the Sudanese culture, I think I can relate: the idea that age = wisdom, respecting and listening to your elders and "waiting until it is your turn" is strongly entrenched. I don't think that within the Sudanese community I am even seen as an "adult" yet! (Not until I get married and have kids anyway) so for young people striving to be involved, this is quite an issue and one that is deeply entrenched in cultural expectations.
Hopefully something that will shift though, as the generational change occurs.
All in all, a fantastic affair and I hope to stay in touch with the fabulous people I met. Inshallah something comes out of it all! Kudos to the Aussie High Commission and all the ISIS etc people involved for a truly interesting and thought provoking week.
(Oh and the food was a-maaaaazing. Just sayin').
Did you know a High Commission is the equivalent of an Embassy, just in a Commonwealth country? I didn't until only recently! You learn something new every day...