By Grassroot Diplomat, 26-Apr-2013 08:09:00
London, UK. April 23, 2013 – Last night, Talyn Rahman-Figueroa, director and founder of diplomatic consultancy Grassroot Diplomat, won the Channel S Award 2013 for Graduate Excellence. Presented by Mayor of Tower Hamlets Mr Lufter Rahman, the Channel S Awards has become one of the most prestigious awards of recognition within the Bangladeshi community of Britain and Europe. Over the last 6 years, the Channel S Awards has sought out the most worthy recipients for awards and accolades to mark the significant progress of a relatively young community in Britain.
In her acceptance speech live on TV, Talyn said: “I hope that by winning this award, I will become a better role model for women and for the Bengali community by showing the world what we can do.” She closed off the speech by dedicating the award to her mother Sherin, who has shown “ever-lasting love and support” of her ambitions.
The Bengali community in Britain has many distinguished dignitaries including British diplomat Anwar Choudhury, Rushnara Ali MP, and Labour party politician Murad Qureshi. Talyn was personally chosen by Baroness Pola Uddin, a member of the judging committee, who sees big potential in the young diplomatic director.
Acknowledged for ‘Graduate Excellence’, Talyn’s education included a Bachelor's degree in Japanese and Management from the School of Oriental and African Studies, where she participated in further language training at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies in Kyoto, Japan. She was later awarded the Diplomatic Academy of London scholarship in 2010 to pursue a postgraduate degree in Diplomatic Studies at the University of Westminster, where she gained a Distinction award. During her postgraduate study, Talyn raised funds for supplementary training in Morocco, the European Union Commission, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York where she attained two further certificates in International Relations and Diplomacy.
Congratulations to the Director - it was well-deserved.
By Grassroot Diplomat, 22-Apr-2013 09:56:00
On 17th – 22nd March 2013, the director of Grassroot Diplomat Talyn Rahman-Figueroa was invited to participate at the International Young Leaders Forum and the Third Echenberg Family Conference on Human Rights Global Conference on Human Rights, Democracy and the Fragility of Freedom at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Chosen from over 600 applications, Talyn and 23 other Young Leaders from around the world were selected for their leadership in civil society, human rights and democracy, to address the challenges of human rights in today’s world.
The Young Leaders Forum lasted for 3 days where the leaders were to present a one hour workshop to peers on topics including the Maturity, Decay and Rot of Democracies, Youth Disenfranchisement, New Democracies, and Glocal Democracy in the Information Age. During these sessions, it was learned that Australia holds compulsory elections whereby the failure to vote leads to financial penalties to its citizens. The Canadian authorities are failing to compensate the Canadian aborigines for occupying their land. There are still over 70 countries worldwide that have outlawed any discussion and acknowledgement of homosexuality.
The biggest lesson that came out of the forum was a general agreement that democracy doesn’t end with an election vote but is a process that requires active participation of its citizens. As Rab Nawaz, a Young Leader from Pakistan had put it, “the idea of free and open communication between all segments and stakeholders, especially the marginal ones, is not something outside the domain of democracy, rather the essence of democracy.” This is one of the reasons why Grassroot Diplomat is so pivotal in today’s society – democracy can only be ensured if communication between citizens and its leaders are open and mutually beneficial.
Following her presentation on “Online Hate Speech” at the Young Leaders Forum, Talyn had the privilege to speak at a conference panel alongside Colombian activist Oscar Morales and Executive Director of Advancing Human Rights David Keyes to talk further about negative use of online communication. While Oscar and David highlighted the power of social media and internet surveillance, Talyn was more critical about how the internet has created a powerful anti-tool where hate speech can easily spread and poison the minds of ordinary people in any society. Her presentation illustrated racist and offensive tweets about President Obama from ordinary Twitter-users, and demonstrated the lack of moderation of hate speech by Facebook and similar online institutions. Her presentation ended by asking the audience to stand and in unison repeat the sentence “My name is..., I am from..., and I will not hate” in their mother tongue, as a reminder that we are all human and we feel the same.
While at the forum, the Young Leaders had the privilege of personally engaging with an impressive list of speakers, including Mekdes Mezgebu - Programme Officer with United Nations Development Programme, former Young Leader Dr Alan Huynh from Australia, Professor Abdullahi An-Na’im from Sudan, and Chairman of Quillam, Maajid Nawaz who made a big impact to all of the participants. Maajid retold his story of being detained in Egypt, even as a British citizen, for leading a global Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. During his time in prison, Maajid noticed that he was turning into a monster whose only wish was to seek vengeance against President Mubarak’s regime. As a prisoner of political conscience, Amnesty International adopted Maajid’s case and helped to free him, but as part of the reconciliation process to heal his wounds, Maajid had to believe in his own humanity and re-humanise before working with others.
Similar cases of rehumanisation was evident in the stories told by other speakers who experienced dire acts of human rights violation by the government. When discussing the Arab Spring, Palestinian journalist Bassam Eid noted that he saw many cases where the “oppressed became the oppressor” and that the “Arab Spring will never bring changes until culture is changed.” Here, Bassam refers to how governance is formed and who the government is supported by. If a dictatorship ends and is replaced by yet another dictator, nothing in the culture of politics and society changes unless drastic measures in ensuring real democracy is in place.
The changing nature of society is evident when a dictator holds top position in governance. Such was the case of author and Iranian activist Marina Nemat, who at the age of sixteen, was arrested and imprisoned by speaking up against her government for making fun illegal. Coming dangerously close to being executed, Marina shared her experiences of being tortured and forced into temporary marriage with guards for sexual intercourse, stating that “torture is designed not to get information...[it] is designed to break the human soul.” Her torturers were once tortured and they sought revenge by torturing others. Like Marina, Flora Terah (Director of Terah Against Terror) shared multiple cases of where she had witnessed her friends get killed in acts of gendered violence. In 2007, Flora was a Parliamentary Candidate for the Kenyan election, during which she was abducted, beaten, tortured and learned that her only son was murdered by those that wanted her to withdraw.
If there is anything to be learned from these stories, it is that freedom is taken for granted by the average person and many individuals are still placed in positions where their freedom must be fought for.
The list of speakers at the conference is a long and impressive one that can be found on http://efchr.mcgill.ca/2013/eng/conference_speakers.php.
On behalf of the Director, Grassroot Diplomat would like to thank organisers at McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, the McGill Faculty of Law and particularly Penny and Gordon Echenberg of the Echenberg Family Conference on Human Rights for their kind invitation and participation at this highly successful conference.
By Grassroot Diplomat, 15-Mar-2013 22:23:00
Written by Nana Adjekum
On Tuesday 12th March 2013, Grassroot Diplomat was invited to the University College London for a meeting with the Ecuadorian Secretary of State, Dr Fander Falconi. Dr Falconi is responsible for the country's economic and social development plan. The main aim of the talk was to discuss the new direction that Ecuador is embarking on and how this new change relates to their relations with their Latin American neighbors.
Ecuador in the past has been labeled one of the poorest countries in Latin America. According to World Vision, eight percent of workers are unemployed and about thirty five percent live below the poverty line. The schools in Ecuador are free but by operating on low income, the sustainability of children's education falls on the parents. UNICEF claims that indigenous and Afro Ecuadorian families are more likely to grow up in poverty and lack access to education. Baring these challenges in mind and with a newly elected president Rafael Correa, Dr Falconi has faced these problems head on and positive outcomes are emerging.
During the talk, Dr Falconi explained that in the years of 2007-2012, Ecuador's growth rate was higher than the average Latin American country. Their economy is growing on average five percent each year. Additionally, external debt has been managed effectively which has encouraged European countries such as Greece to take heed. Ecuador has done the opposite to World Bank and the IMF suggestions and has put more emphasis on public investment which in return has worked to their economic advantage. One of Ecuador's main visions is to eradicate poverty through socialist good living. This idea has resulted in free healthcare for the people of Ecuador. They have decreased child work labour and have increased the number of children in school. Although Ecuador's economy relies heavily on exporting their natural resources, they are working on using their natural resources internally and more effectively. They are also looking on moving away from finite resources and seeking other options in the next few years.
By Grassroot Diplomat, 01-Feb-2013 17:46:00
LONDON, January 31, 2013 – The winners of the inaugural Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Awards were announced last night at a ceremony in London. Over 120 distinguished guests from embassies, political offices, universities and non-government organisations gathered to celebrate the achievements of outstanding diplomats and politicians representing the people’s interest at the highest level.
Host and director of Grassroot Diplomat Talyn Rahman-Figueroa described the nominees as “worthy examples for all others... committed to listening and respecting the needs of the people”. The competition was stiff with over 30 government officials shortlisted for this honour but there could only be six winners. Winners were judged on the quality and outreach of their campaign, level of support within the community and results of their direct actions.
The full list of winners:
• Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon
- Policy Driver Winner for Special Educational Needs
• HE Mauricio Rodriguez Munera, Embassy of Colombia
- Policy Driver Winner for Evaluating International Drug Trade
• Baroness May Blood MBE, House of Lords
- Social Driver Winner for Integrated Education in Northern Ireland
• HE Ivan Romero-Martinez, Embassy of Honduras
- Social Driver Winner for Supporting Street Children
• Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth
- Business Driver Winner for Pay on Time Campaign
• HE Dr Suresh Chandra Chalise, Embassy of Nepal
- Business Driver Winner for Business Integration of the Gurkhas
• Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East
• HE Ruth Elizabeth Rouse, High Commission of Grenada
• Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria, London
• Jeremy Corbyn, MP for North Islington
• Councillor Chris Maines, Blackheath Ward
• HE Daniel Taub, Embassy of Israel
The Initiative Award was supported by Chateau de la Ligne, Kenya Airways, St James Theatre, Gastronomica, World Vision Photography, All Health Studio, Denbies Wine Estate and the Grange Hotel. Guests were treated to live cello wine reception, 3-course meal, raffle fundraising, and performance by Eurovision artist Imaani.
By Grassroot Diplomat, 29-Nov-2012 08:00:00
For a two day conference in Coventry, the Director of Grassroot Diplomat Talyn Rahman-Figueroa had the honour to be invited at the Warwick International Development on 16-17th November 2012. The Warwick International Development is the largest student run development summit in the IS and is a unique platform that allows participants to engage with critical issues facing the field of international development.
On early Saturday morning, Talyn presented her case on the need for grassroot diplomacy in an era where more global grassroots movements are pivotally changing the nature of international diplomacy. In her presentation, the Director noted that the greatest challenge in our social structure is a clear lack of communication between political leaders and the citizens that they represent. She went on to further establish that the problem isn’t that we don’t have tools to communicate, but rather, people and governments have different outlooks on policy issues and governments, for the most part, forget that they are meant to serve a population whose basic needs must be met adequately.
Talyn spoke amongst high-profile speakers including World Bank Managing Director Mahmoud Mohieldin, Burma human rights activist Zoya Phan, and Jeffrey Sachs. Grassroot Diplomat also had the privilege of hosting a seminar in relation to the changing face of foreign policy where more than 50 students had participated on Talyn’s workshop.
We would like to thank the organisers of WIDS for this opportunity to participate and would like to congratulate the students for a wonderful experience. We hope that the students were inspired and we look forward to next year’s conference.
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