By Azuka Ogujiuba
Sixteen-year old Oluwatosin Onaolapo has made Nigeria proud. Tosin is an IB student at EF Academy at the Torbay campus. She spent the early part of her summer holiday as an intern at the Global Student Leaders’ Summit at The Hague in the Netherlands. She was chosen out of 1500 international high school students to give a speech introducing Ndaba Mandela (grandson of Nelson Mandela) to her peers at the international summit.
From June 24th to 26th, Oluwatosin, along with other high school students from around the world, gathered at the International Court of Justice for the Global Student Leaders’ Summit. It was a three-day leadership conference focused on human rights issues. At 8:30 a.m. that morning, Tosin prepared for the task assigned to her as a summit intern. She has the sole honour of introducing the summit’s keynote speaker, Ndaba Mandela to a group of 15,000 of her peers from around the world. Other keynote speakers were Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Pulitzer Prize winner, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, an alumnus of the African Leadership Academy (ALA), South Africa.
Oluwatosin’s stint at Torbay was her first time away from home alone, and her work at the Global Student Leaders’ Summit was her first internship. “The summit gives us the confidence to raise our voice higher and add our thoughts, our ideas to global issues. My entire internship experience was centered on learning from everyone around me and being bigger than some of the limitations that are typically associated with youth or race. It was all truly amazing,” she said.
Students at the summit attended human rights and leadership workshops and they participated in innovation sessions with peers who became close friends by the weekend. The pinnacle of the summit was the innovation sessions that saw small groups of students come together to solve a current human rights issue using the ‘design thinking methodology’. They chose from four different case studies that focused on individuals who overcame situations where their human rights were diminished or disregarded. These four individuals’ stories were featured on the renowned blog “Humans of New York” and the students were asked to come up with solutions to the issues that the individuals faced in each scenario. Tosin’s group worked on finding a solution for women like Bhavani, an Indian woman now living independently in the U.S. after her husband died 15 years ago. She, and other women like her, have had to move past the gender roles that restrict them.
“As a group, we realized that Bhavani needed support from other women who had been in, and risen above similar circumstances. One group member suggested we send letters of encouragement from such women to Bhavani. We then decided to fold those letters into origami cranes and have them mailed to her personally.”
Students at the summit came from all around the world. Oluwatosin was part of the EF Academy group made up of 23 students representing 16 different countries; a culturally diverse group unified by a common universal trait- youth.
Oluwatosin believes young students should be given the opportunity to experience the Global Students Leaders’ Summit like she did because “the summit gives us the confidence to raise our voice higher until we get the respect we deserve, even as youths. Some of the other interns and I are thinking of creating an international non-profit organisation where we can use what we’ve learned about leadership and storytelling to teach others to take leadership positions in the student council and become better ambassadors for EF Academy and for our countries. Being part of the conference allowed me to get a glimpse of where I stand in the global community.” With young women like Oluwatosin, the future is in good hands.