So You Want to Join The Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities?Written by Chelby Daigle
The Ontario Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities is recruiting for new members. The deadline to apply is January 19. You can learn more here.
Muslim Link interviewed Somali Canadian Khalid Egeh, a current member of the Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities, about his experience, and why more Muslim youth should get involved.
1. Tell us about yourself
I’m a young man that is motivated and driven by his passion to see his community rise and succeed. I’m 20 years old. I’m a Canadian born Somali. I'm son, a university student and a public speaker. I am a Muslim. I live in Ottawa.
2. Why did you want to join the Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities.
I needed to join the Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities because I felt that I needed to amplify the voices of individuals in my particular community, those who often get drowned out by the mainstream issues that come to light in many discussions about youth issues. I felt that I needed to be more action driven, and this was a great opportunity to do so on a provincial level. At every meeting, we are asked "What voices are you amplifying when we speak to the various provincial ministries?". My answer is so simple, I amplify the voices of racialized youth, Black youth, Muslim youth, youth in conflict with the law, youth marginalized both in and by the education system and newcomer youth. I’m no expert in any of these, but what I do have is lived experience and community connections. It’s my job as a member of the council to effectively share these perspectives.
3. Tell us about some of the issues you have been able to bring to the table
In terms of what I’ve been able to bring up while on council, I’ve been able to advocate and speak on behalf of single parents raising children and finding more effective ways that the Ministry of Children and Youth Services can better assist these strong individuals. Whether that be extra support with pre/post-care or more free programming for children to attend. I’ve been able to discuss the issue of policing in our city in relation to the tragedy of Abdirahman Abdi Allah yerhamo, and how the policing tactics used incite more fear than feelings of safety for my community. I’ve been able to discuss issues of systemic barriers within the education system for individuals who are racialized as this hits home for myself. I've discussed some potential areas where the system can be improved. I’ve also seen many individuals I’ve grown up with get into trouble with the law, so I’ve discussed finding ways to bridge the education system in Ontario with corrections to create a safety net where preventative measures are set in place so that the rate of incarceration amongst youth can be lowered.
4. Do you consult with other youth in your community about what issues to bring to the table?
I’ve talked to many youth, asking what they think would be important to bring to council. The response is usually around tuition, affordable public transportation in summer when you are out of school, and jobs. I have taken those concerns to council and shared them with the Minister along with Ministry staff.
5. Why would you recommend that youth join the council?
I would recommend it for individuals who are serious about creating measurable, impactful change. There’s definitely a lot more that goes into meeting than just having discussions with Ministries. There are several decks (PowerPoint presentations) that are sent out on short notice before meetings that you as an individual need to be aware of in order to give effective feedback. The truth is, some people aren’t really willing to put in that extra effort to bring the issues of their community to a table where change could actually happen; that’s why I think that it’s not for everyone. Many people do apply, but only 25-30 are given a seat on council, and when you get the chance to take that seat, you must deliver as your community, family, friends, teachers and so on are expecting you to deliver their message. You are accountable to them.
6. How have you benefited from being on the council?
I’ve benefited from council by learning how government works. Like many people, I used to think that the government loved being slow, but as I got on council, I learned about policies, and how they are developed, and it is a very intricate process in which consultations, meetings and more consultations are conducted before a policy is implemented. I’ve built strong connections both in and out of the government, where I have met some really cool people that have huge aspirations to do monumental things in the world one day. Professionalism is something I’ve been able to sharpen up, as meetings are very formal and structured.
7. How do you balance your studies work and family responsibilities with being on the council?
Sometimes, I ask myself how I balance work, family, and school, but I’m a firm believer that if you truly believe in something, you’ll do it at any cost. I believe I play a big role in all three to be honest, and I’m glad that I’m able to have a full plate while young, because I’m constantly growing and learning from the children I work with, to the adults I’m surrounded by in my day-to-day life. In terms of how I balance it while being on council, I find a way to make it happen. Sometimes I have to be away from family. Sometimes I have to be away from school. Sometimes I have to be away from work. Being on council means a lot to me. I'm someone who loves seeing everyone win. The world really runs on policies, so if I’m informing myself on how these systems work, I’m not only advancing myself, but I'm able to spread my knowledge with others. So, what I'm learning at council, I share with those around me at work, in school, and at home.
8. Do your family and friends support you being on council?
Yes! My parents were more excited than I was when I told them I that I was afforded the opportunity to be on council!
9. How do you feel your experience on Council will help you in your future career?
I think being on council has taught me to listen more than I speak. As cliche as that sounds, it’s very true. Often times we listen to what we want to hear, not what we have to hear. I’ve also learned to truly value the opinion of others. I mean, I always did, but you learn to value the opinion of others differently, as you too begin to understand that in order for us (humanity) to move forward, there has to be some working together in order for us to get to where we want to go. I’ve also learned that you don’t need an entire city, province, country or the world to be on the same page in order for change to happen. Change could be sparked by one individual and spread to a few others to the point where action can be put behind our thoughts. All of this to say that I’ve learned more than I thought I would going into this appointment. This opportunity has changed my perspective on life really, because getting the chance to be on council was a reassurance to myself that I could go places, but being on council taught me that the only real limit, is the one we set for ourselves. I’ve learned that humility is an important trait, because no one really knows everything, and that’s okay, but it’s about our willingness to learn what we don’t know in order to inform ourselves. Professionalism, humility, educating myself, learning to understand others on a different level, and getting to know myself better have all been some things I’ve learned while I’ve been on council, and I think they’ll all be really helpful in the future inshallah!
This article was produced exclusively for Muslim Link and should not be copied without prior permission from the site. For permission, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.