From September 8 – 10, Cari-Bois’ first cohort of youth journalists covered The Cropper Foundation and Journal of CESaRE’s 2023 Gen Z Climate Conference. This latest piece published under Cari-Bois’ I WANT TO BE AN ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTER project was written by Hadassa Karimbocas.
To kick-off The Cropper Foundation and Journal of CESaRE’s Gen Z Climate Conference on September 8, Dr Len Ishmael – Senior Fellow of the Policy Centre for the New South – sought to inspire attendees by sharing her life experiences.
Born in St Lucia and raised in Germany, Ishmael is a well-known development planner, geographer and author.
From 2003 – 2013, she served as Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
She is also the former Ambassador of the Eastern Caribbean States to the Kingdom of Belgium and European Union (2014-2017).
In opening the recent youth conference, Ishmael shared her early life experience to help attendees understand that “journeys are not always linear, they can sometimes also be very messy and they can be circular.”
Recalling her time as a young migrant, Ishmael passionately spoke about being bullied and experiencing racism at the age of five because she was a person of colour.
Describing the harrowing experience as “eye-opening,” Ishmael explained it motivated her – from a young age – to have a desire to help those who may not have a platform to speak up for themselves.
To achieve that goal, and empower herself, Ishmael believed in the power of education as a tool for social mobility and pursued every avenue to substantially educate herself.
Today, she has degrees from several universities including; a PhD in Development Economics and International Development from the University of Pennsylvania, a MA in City/Urban, Community and Regional Planning from New York’s Hunter College, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Geography from the University of the West Indies.
To young people in the Caribbean and beyond, Ishmael wants them to understand the value of working diligently to pursue their goals and also being mindful of the choices they make.
In a world with social media, she warned young people to think before doing things because there can be consequences like damage to their reputations later on in life.
Speaking to the young female attendees specifically, Ishmael encouraged them to not be limited to the belief that they are simply “a woman in a man’s world.”
Instead, she called on them to take up space, speak up for themselves and others, and pursue opportunities which contribute towards their growth.