ISAAC BAYOH’S MISSION IN LIFE IS TO UNLOCK THE POTENTIAL OF YOUTH
September 30, 2019
My name is Isaac Bayoh; I AM a Powerful, Courageous, Inspiring Leader!! I love to cook and I journal everyday. I capitalize when I say “I AM”, because for me, “I AM” are the two most powerful words that I live by; for what I put after them shapes my reality.
I was born in the Western Area, of the diamond capital- the richest country in the world inhabited by the most beautiful souls; Sierra Leone.
I grew up in a single parent home; with a mother who loves me and a sister who shares in the colorful spirit of differences that makes us human. I grew up being different in a society that values sameness. Differences, in this society, are less than a source of celebration, and more a reason to tease, hate, and exclude.
I live my life intentionally. I live my life free from societal pressures; and at a young age, my mother taught me to embrace ALL that is me; for how I choose to love and treat myself is how I teach others to love and treat me.
I quickly learned that mirrors existed only to show our outer appearance but nothing beyond that. Only our actions, words, and ideas could represent the personal qualities that matter.
Growing up in Sierra Leone was an empowering stretch that altered the trajectory of my life. I understand what it means to walk half a mile to fetch water under the vengeful heat of the dry season sun. I understand what it means to bail water out of my flood-swamped house because of the heavy rains. All the while hearing the neighbours cry about drowning relatives, as the remains of zinc houses which were once homes, float by telling stories of the families it once sheltered. This is home; and I AM the change!
I aspire to become a compassionate capitalist who contributes the best that we have, and all that we are. I work towards creating a world that supports everyone; because I believe that one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.
I feel close enough to relate to others, and far enough ahead to motivate them. I can be anything: a visionary, an educator, a motivator, an innovator, a communicator, a facilitator and an adviser. I know that God is using me because I have a vision for my life that is greater than my imagination can hold.
UNVEILING MY WORK
Being the Permanent Youth Delegate of Sierra Leone to the United Nations is an empowering stretch. Young people face challenges of exclusion and being perceived as a problem rather than partners and agents of change, despite an increasing recognition of the positive role of youth in peace building.
I work directly with the Third Committee; it is one of six main committees at the General Assembly of the United Nations. It deals with human rights, humanitarian affairs and social matters. There is a common thread amongst the young people I speak to: that “the United Nations is an institution that does not listen to young people”. As the Voice of the young people of Sierra Leone at the United Nations, I am commissioned to critically emphasize the defining challenges (access to quality education, unemployment, inequality, social exclusion and climate change ). In my bilateral engagement with member states, I encourage focused agreements in order to overcome the mismatch between the skills that youth possess and the specialized demands of labor markets that are shaped by globalization.
I am also commissioned to initiate the Sierra Leone-UN Youth Strategy Policy – in line with Sierra Leone’s Medium-Term National Development Plan 2019-2023. The Youth Strategy will serve as a supporting framework to guide the government of Sierra Leone on track with the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. It will seek to significantly strengthen Sierra Leone’s capacity to engage young people and benefit from their views, insights and ideas and to ensure the government’s work on youth issues is pursued in a coordinated, coherent and holistic manner.
My vision for Sierra Leone is one in which the human rights of every young Sierra Leonean is realized; that ensures every Sierra Leonean is empowered to achieve their full potential.
One that recognizes and honours every Sierra Leonean, in terms of our resilience and our positive contributions in becoming agents of change.
SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN THE REST
My greatest challenge is having top political officials in Sierra Leone understand the severity of youth inclusion in decision making positions. It seems to go in one ear and out the other. I emphasize the importance of youth participation as it fosters young Sierra Leonean’s active citizenship, enhances their integration and inclusion and strengthens their contribution to the development of our democracy.
There is no major disenchantment with politics on the part of young Sierra Leoneans, only a clear and growing disenchantment with politicians and political elites. Research evidence indicates that young people are far from apathetic but they are participating more in non-conventional ways. The problem here is with an oversimplified conception of political participation – one that focuses exclusively on conventional politics and does not see the many other ways in which young Sierra Leoneans engage with, and participate in, the world around them.
The main issue arising in my experience when considering youth participation in Sierra Leone is to acknowledge the breadth of practices and to extend the scope of what is seen as youth participation to include multiple forms.
EACH ONE TEACH ONE
Youth in Africa continuously complain about lack of opportunities for growth and development. I find this to be a vulnerable and enlightening subject. Many reach out to me on social media asking for help and handouts and as much as I like helping, I am always strategic with how I help.
One young man (Franklyn Dero Momoh) stood out to me last year in his request when he reached out via Facebook. He lamented his state of condition; a sick mother he had to care for, lack of adequate finances to get him through school and at the verge of dropping out (This is a common thread amongst us Africans). What struck me was his “powerful request”, as he went further to express his dreams of becoming a serial entrepreneur in the apparel industry, by creating high-end fashionable clothing, bags, footwear and accompanying accessories using sustainable materials.
He articulated a well thought out business model from conception to generating profit and in turn positively impacting Sierra Leone’s economy. I had never seen myself as an “investor” and Franklyn’s request created the space where I will discover my innate gift for coaching, and led me to create my first ever investment portfolio.
We signed a Memorandum of Understanding, months later after profits began to roll in, a Partnership Agreement was signed. A year to date “Dero’s Collections” can be purchased in the US, UK, and across the African continent; where 5% of the profit on each product sold goes toward our respective Non-profits. “Salone for Life” & “Girl Optimization”.
His mum couldn’t be happier and he’s on the verge of completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Peace & Conflict Studies. Wonderful things happen when someone is given a fighting chance.
The strategies that enabled me for this task was my understanding of his story through empathy and intention. The ties that bind us – Humanity. Even if my neighbour doesn’t understand my religion or understand my politics, he can understand my story. I live to serve, and my life is surrounded by service; and the significance that I bring to my service is that which is lasting.
My Guiding Pillars:
I believe that when you shift the paradigm of whatever it is that you choose to do to service and you bring significance to that, success will always follow. Service and significance (for me) equals success. In becoming who I am, I have learnt that It takes creating reasons to be alive. As I experience life, my beliefs and convictions have changed from what I knew as a boy.
Life has taught me to question myself to what I know is my truth; for if I am to be admired, I want my outward appearance to accurately reflect my inner character.
Learning to trust my struggle is a reminder for me to constantly be willing to improve myself if I want to improve my circumstances.
Faith plays a main role in who I am and the man I am becoming.
I don’t believe in competing for what I want. I believe in creating what I want; by bringing it to reality through motivation and changing that motivation into a habit to get to where I am going; seeking the power to improve the lives of many out there, through the diligence of my hard work and most of all, because of the faith others have in me; and on the basis of this I’ve realized that I am never too much and I am always enough.
As a young global leader, I fall countless times, and I grow from my experiences and become stronger through the grace of God. To me, challenges aren’t roadblocks, they are opportunities. I don’t make excuses, I take ownership and I am not limited by my actions.
My performance of leadership is measured by the people who look up to me, how I inspire them and how I engage them. I learn from every experience and encounter, as these have taught me and forced me into being more of who I am. And what I know for sure is that my biggest choices begins and ends with me.
It’s Time to Rise Up
I think our biggest problems as Youth in Africa is understanding WHO we are, WHAT we have to offer and HOW can we offer it in a way that will lead to the sustainable development of us as the individual; as well as to the continent; I call this realizing “Identity Capital”.
It is how we build ourselves—bit by bit, over time. It is what we bring to the adult marketplace. It is the currency we as African Youth MUST understand and use to metaphorically purchase jobs and relationships and other things we want.
What we should do is ask ourselves vital questions; Questions that lay the foundation for truth and accountability. What if our dreams were acknowledged? What if we were given room to thrive? What if the African dream wasn’t to merely survive? What if we really changed the narrative?… For we are not only representing ourselves; we have a larger demand because we are representing our countries, our people, our segregated, decentralized communities that we come from. And we realize this when we grasp the understanding and true meaning of who we are. For there is nothing greater than being vulnerable. For it means you are open to all possibilities. And possibilities are the things that make dreams come true. I’d propose Six modules that’ll foster and support Youth & Inter-generational Engagement:
A Network to facilitate connections among youth and across generations
An incubator to provide concrete support to youth led projects
A forum to celebrate and make visible youth stories, youth leadership and youth innovation as well as identify and highlight effective job & training opportunities for youth, including in the context of just transition. Exactly what Ariana Diaries is doing; This is a great example of effectual development that is influencing and sustainable.
A knowledge Center to capture, develop and disseminate knowledge that is co-construct with youth based on the needs, opportunities and expertise of Youth.
An observatory to celebrate and make visible youth stories, youth leadership and youth innovation across the continent.
A dashboard to collect and provide data on and for youth and public mobilization for the important synergies between the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 – which is for an Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.
The Future is in our Hands
The future is in our hands, if I had the power to enact a legislature for youth development in Africa. I would formulate a common, innovative and coordinated resource mobilization strategy with a specific focus on mainstreaming youth across existing funding mechanisms and identifying funding solutions for under-financed areas, such as support for youth-led initiatives, movements, networks and organisations, youth participation mechanisms and youth policy work.
I would enact such a legislature because every human deserves to have a set platform where they are reminded that they are beautiful, talented and one of a kind. That no one can stop them from doing anything that is on their mind. That when they are given a fighting chance, amazing things can happen.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!
If I could choose three young people in the world who inspire me to be my best self:
Denola Grey – a Nigerian young man who is fierce, focused and FABULOUS! He is a freelance fashion consultant, Actor, writer and an all-round influencer. Denola is not afraid to spark, shimmer & shine!! His way of being, inspires my true colors to shine through in all I do. When I am my authentic self, abundant, loving, magical things happen.
Ariana Oluwole – a vivacious, scintillating, community-building young woman who is creating a world where everyone feels included, appreciated and wholesomely empowered. She is intentional, and her intentionality inspires me on the basis on which I live my life. For me, Intention is at the heart of creating authentic power; and that’s exactly what Ariana is; POWERFUL!
Binta Jalloh – A boundary-breaking, fearlessly-accepting, soulmate!! She inspires me everyday to know that real friendship is where quirks are celebrated, eccentricities are applauded and idiosyncrasies are flaunted. Laughs, smiles, cries, frowns, fights and pranks – I’d have missed all of life’s ‘bestest’ emotions if it weren’t for a best friend like her.
Life has taught me that when you move, the Universe moves. When you reach, it reaches. When you stretch, it stretches. But always, you must go first. Here’s to the heroes of tomorrow, to the energies that will define the future!!