Yvette Agyemang is the International Development Coordinator at Southampton Hub, and has been spending the past few months planning this year’s International Development Conference (IDC). Info about the conference can be found here. I sat down with Yvette to discuss the conference, her preparation for it, and how students can participate in relation to the causes and issues spotlighted at this year’s event.
So the IDC is coming up soon, you must be getting really excited?
Extremely excited. I’ve been working on it all throughout summer, so I’m just happy to see it finally arriving.
I’m sure a lot of hard work that goes into something like this. Did you have any challenges in organizing this and getting everything together?
I’d say just organizing my subcommittee, because I did a lot of the work over the summer where people were volunteering abroad and traveling, and waiting for speakers to reply as well, which are sort of typical setbacks.
It seems like it’s a pretty exciting event, can you tell me more about some of the speakers that are coming?
We’ve got a great lineup of speakers. We’ve got an academic called Dr. Tim Colbourn from the UCL Institute of Global Health, and he’s going to be leading a debate on how climate change is going to be affecting global health and the implications for the future.
We also have the founding president of the World Association for Sustainable Development, which is really exciting. He’s going to be exploring how technology and science can be used in the fight towards development. Other organisations attending include Child to Child, who focus on child rights such as education for all (which is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals) and Women for Women International, which aims to empower women in war zones.
We’ve got someone from Amnesty International speaking about the Control Arms campaign, which is quite controversial. We’ve got the director of the Anti-Slavery Organization, someone from Glad’s House (who work with street kids in Kenya), as well as speakers from New Internationalist and Impact International.
With such a variety of things going on, it sounds like there’s something for everyone here.
Absolutely, that’s really what I wanted to go for. This year’s theme is ‘Issues of the Wider World’ and I called it that because I wanted a variety of different international development issues to be covered. For a lot of people this is their first interaction with global justice and social issues, so I wanted them to at least have one subject that they could take away and say ‘Wow, this really spoke to me, I feel really passionate about this, I’m going to do something about it.’ This conference is all about not only invoking thought about social issues but inspiring people to take action and do something.
Will there be any student organizations represented at the conference?
Student organisations that will be represented include Amnesty International, SKIP, Farm Africa and WaterAid. There will also be a student called Luke Stewart, who’s been working with Tear Fund, as well as a campaign from Hope Not Hate.
During lunch there’s going to be an interactive session where people can go around stalls and learn more about the societies on campus as well as external organizations. Hopefully, this will be a way for individuals to be able to have in depth conversations with the speakers, not just sitting down and listening to them. I’d rather that students shared their own ideas, or started debates, or found out about what they can do. I think we’ve got a nice mixture, we have some sessions with an academic speaker sharing their knowledge, some of the sessions will be debates, we’re going to have some sessions that are organizations talking about what they do at a grassroots level to inspire people that way.
Can you just share the details on when and where the IDC is taking place this year?
It’s on Saturday, October 24 from 10am-4pm in the Physics Building on Highfield Campus. For students, tickets cost £7, and they’re £12.50 for non-students, staff, alumni, or anyone else that wants to attend. It’s best to buy a ticket in advance, online, just so we can get a good idea of numbers. It will also be possible to buy tickets on the door.
The schedule of events will be coming very soon, hopefully in the next few days when I’ve matched what time speakers want around all the other sessions.
I’m sure that with all the moving parts that go into organizing something like this there are still some challenges, it is a big task. Speaking of that, what compelled you to get so involved and organize the IDC?
I went to last year’s International Development Conference, and that was organized by this year’s Southampton Hub’s President. That’s when I was really inspired to think of myself as a global citizen and to think of what I could do. From there I set up my Farm Africa society on campus, keeping in close contact with Student Hubs who were really behind me and supported me all the way. When the role for International Development Coordinator became available, I decided to just go for it and inspire other people, hoping to have a domino effect in the same way that I was inspired. Being of Ghanaian descent, it’s always been something that’s close to my heart, when I look at people suffering in Africa I think to myself ‘that could be my, that could be my family.’ Those kinds of things have inspired me to get involved
You keep using the word inspiration, and particularly about having a domino effect and inspiring others. You’re only in your second year and on top of coordinating the IDC, you’ve already started the Farm Africa Society at Southampton. How have you been able to accomplish so much in such a short time?
Well first of all, signing up for the Southampton Hub newsletter, that’s just full of amazing opportunities. I think opportunities are always there, I think it’s just up to you to look at the right channels, but not just look at them, actually do something. I could’ve just gone to the International Development Conference last year and been like ‘Oh wow, I feel bad about what’s going on in the world, blah blah blah’ but I decided to actually do something and even if you have the simplest idea, just e-mail someone who might be a relevant person to speak to and say ‘I’m thinking of fundraising for this.’ or ‘I’m interested in this campaign.’
There’s so much you can do from where we are, especially with a large student community like we have at Southampton. If everyone focused on the one thing that they’re passionate about, just think of how big of an impact and a change that could make. It’s great to be aware about various issues but picking one or two causes to help, is more realistic and will have a better long term effect. I think that with volunteer work, having that visible long-term effect what it’s all about.