Strengthening partnerships across borders

Rokiah Mahmud

Launched in 2013, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) is the United States (US) Government’s signature programme to strengthen partnership with emerging young leaders in Southeast Asia.

The programme also aims to expand the young leaders’ skills as effective civic, economic, and non-governmental leaders in the region as well as to encourage them to work together across borders to solve regional challenges.

This was stated by US Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Matthew John Matthews at the recent opening ceremony of YSEALI Generation Workshop: Advancing

Gender Equality.

The ambassador added that the YSEALI programme includes all ASEAN member countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) as well as Timor-Leste.

“YSEALI focusses on four priorities that include civic engagement, education, environmental protection and entrepreneurship as well as economic development. Through this workshop, the delegates will increase their understanding on the important role that gender plays in these priorities.”

Untied States Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Matthew John Matthews delivers his welcoming remarks at the event. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s largest markets. If ASEAN were a single country, it would be the fifth-largest economy in the world, with a combined GDP approaching USD3 trillion, he noted.

“But what is even more remarkable is the region’s future potential,” highlighted the ambassador. “Sixty-five per cent of the population in the ASEAN region is under the age of 35. So young people must be involved in addressing ASEAN’s national, regional and global challenges.”

“These 400 million youth – including 50 workshop delegates here today – will define and contribute to Southeast Asia for decades to come. Their leadership and ability to work across borders is critical to the development and prosperity of the region.”

On the workshop, the ambassador said, “This workshop will focus on creating a network of young Southeast Asian leaders to identify explanations for gender inequality in Southeast Asia, to promote the advancement of women in the society, diminish stereotypes that limit women, and nurture the ASEAN Community to find collaborative ways to narrow the gender gap.”

During the five-day workshop, which opened at The Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong on Tuesday, the YSEALI delegates will learn about gender equality topics from a range of experts specialising in the ASEAN region.

They will also visit Bruneian organisations, volunteer in local communities and learn from mentors.

They will then get to apply what they have learnt by designing collaborative group projects, which they will have the opportunity to pitch and then implement in their countries.

“It is my hope that this workshop will hold the YSEALI delegates to increase their knowledge and skills in being advocates for gender equality and that each of our participants will leave the country with a firm understanding on how to promote the advancement of women in their own communities,” added the ambassador.