Annarose Clarisse, 28, holds a Bachelor Degree in Law (Hons) and pursuing further specialisation in law and governance. She is a Legal Officer and the Board Secretary at the Central Bank of Seychelles, a demanding role that takes up much of her time. However, Annarose also finds time volunteering in UN Youth Seychelles (UNYS), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO). Annarose founded the UNYS in December 2016, and she is currently on the Board as the Country Representative and the Project Coordinator for the Silver Lining Project. Annarose tells Cosmocreole why she thought UNYS was worth investing her time in and how her mother and boss, Governor Caroline Abel, have been excellent mentors.
Annarose on UN Youth Seychelles
UNYS is a youth-led NGO that has existed for over four years and counting. Even if I am the founder, UNYS is bigger than me. The objectives and operating standards of the organisation reflect the member’s collective work and decisions. As a member, I helped create several opportunities for youth to participate in Forums both locally and internationally focused on promotion and awareness towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Together with the team, we have been active in initiating and organising 20+ skills-building projects most relating to Financial education and holistic learning and wellbeing with a direct reach of 800+ youths. Along with members of UNYS, we place great focus on skills sharing and leadership development, which has led to all the NGO’s work and content designs being produced by its members internally.
It was the realisation that if I did not do anything, other Seychellois youth would not be able to access the opportunities I could to take part in, the same opportunities that youth from different parts of the world were making the most of them. I like to say that sometimes ”we are lions living like cats, not realising our true potential.” So, in 2016, I raised funds to attend the United Nations Youth Assembly. I had just completed my final exams for my Bachelor of Laws and had studied about the UN for a substantial part of my degree. Being very much aware of the Sustainable Development Goals, the programme seemed like an array of several opportunities. So, I looked into the details and found out other interesting components of the programme, such as Climate Change and finance workshops at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and social venture competition supported by mentors at the Fairleigh Dickinson University spanning from New Jersey, New York and Washington DC.
This decision came at a considerable cost, and I was not employed at the time. I received support from a few family members and compensated the majority amount through a loan from my mother, who supported what seemed to be a crazy idea at the time. I managed to attend the event and successfully represented Seychelles. No Seychellois had participated in the programme before. Based on the cost only and the fact that one has to travel to Mauritius to obtain a visa, it didn’t seem that there would be future participation. Ever my participation, I thought about ways to make the opportunity accessible to other Seychellois youth, ready to replicate my method of raising funds to ensure that Seychelles is not missing out on such a great experience. The more I researched, the more I was convinced that a UN Youth in Seychelles would be the ideal platform to cater for this support, provide preparation for candidates and encourage implementation of various projects. The UN Youth in other countries are either affiliated with the UN or independent. So far, UNYS remains independent.
We have achieved quite a lot internally in maintaining sound governance principles, leadership, values, and teamwork within the organisation. We do not believe in making a difference externally if we cannot touch our own members’ lives. We place a lot of effort in connecting, supporting, and being mindful of members’ mental health, especially since volunteering impedes a lot of personal time. I am personally incredibly proud of both current and previous members and to experience this journey together. For us having clear, transparent records from the outset, with audit statements and fair processes to decide on the organisation’s way forward, is something that we do not take lightly.
Externally, I would say that the working relationship we have built with institutions both locally and internationally has been another achievement since the continued support shows a level of trust towards the organisation despite being fully youth-led with youth members. The growth of our projects has also been a remarkable achievement for us, with the two well-known ones being the Global Money Week & Silver Lining Project. Global Money Week is the world’s largest financial education campaign organised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and coordinated by UNYS in Seychelles.
We also have the Silver Lining Project, which started in 2017, and we have since implemented it on a grander scale. Again, the impact was an achievement that we are most proud of because not only did we see the participants positive feedback, but we also discovered a framework that worked for youth to open up and experience key learnings about the life dimensions in pursuit of their goals.
Another achievement that demonstrates everything we mention about UNYS is our website which took about two years to consolidate all the information I had. We have over ten projects members are working on internally with longevity in mind. On a more personal level, great achievement has been the relationship developed with members along the way, which has also built into meaningful friendships.
Challenges and Support
One of the challenges would be time management. UNYS takes a lot of personal time, and often weekends can easily be allocated to implementing projects. All our internal meetings are after 4 pm. I keep my employment hours separate as I need to be accountable in other roles, and I do not think I should be treated differently due to the organisation’s work. If I have to do something during working hours, I either leave or compensate for the time after working hours.
Personally, I have faced several other challenges like losing someone dear to me, hectic exam periods, and health issues where I had to undergo an operation abroad which meant a complete break from all activities. My partner has been my pillar in this journey, especially having experienced a good part of it with me and sharing the same vision for UNYS. Other members have faced their trials too. At the time of my operation, we were going through a National Grants Application process for a challenging project to complete and balance, along with other initiatives. However, the team led the process and handled the proposal and project brilliantly. Our motto is ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ because when each of us contributes by doing our bit, the load does not fall on a few. UNYS’ biggest support has been its members who devote their time and energy after a long hectic day to the organisation and its projects.
Over the years, UNYS has received various support or grant from government authorities, the private sector, other supporters and organisations abroad. As much as we value monetary support for our projects, we are very motivated by the energy and positive mindset our supporters have – it helps to inspire our members to do more when they see other authorities or the public valuing their contribution, effort and ideas.
Benefits for Seychelles and Members
UNYS has a strict recruitment process, including an application and interview stage of about 3-5 members on the panel led by the Human Resources Division. The intake is quarterly, and there will likely be a cap on the number of members. I would not try to convince someone to join UNYS, but we would let our work, projects and the person’s interest determine that. Entry in the organisation has become quite competitive based on the reliability and effort from members and the available vacant spots. When someone joins, there are a lot of benefits such as gaining experience and developing professionally in the relevant division they applied, being able to implement ideology or using the platform as a space to test or develop capabilities. To know new people, tap into opportunities available to the organisation, share viewpoints on various issues, develop and implement project ideas together and see the direct impact.
Moreover, I believe it benefits Seychelles as we cultivate a culture of youth living organisational values and developing their leadership which will be an advantage to other organisations they are part of. Furthermore, we actively learn from each other through our monthly Peer to Peer Programme. On the last Wednesday of the month, a member delivers a presentation on any topic of their choice, and we engage actively on the topic. We now have about 32 active members, and soon we will have our Alumni and Fellowship programme.
Women Supporting Women
We can do this by appreciating different personalities and being positive. So often, we get caught in perceptions and fail to understand other personalities, experiences and worldviews. Women can be complex at times but also misunderstood. Giving the benefit of the doubt, thinking positive about someone or learning about their life stories can go a long way. We must show our ‘vulnerability’ instead of acting ‘perfect’ most times – this connects us on a deeper level to share lessons learned, experiences and insights. I have found that sometimes simply giving advice is not sufficient. There are particular challenges we need to be ready to invest time, energy and be there with the person on the journey to truly provide support.
My mother, Ms Wilhelmina Clarisse, believed in me and did not hesitate to support me any way she could, even if she did not understand what I was up to at times. Admittedly, she often understood when I could not immediately help with house chores because we either had a project, a meeting or had to study or when I went broke because I had invested in learning opportunities. Notably, her support allowed me to attend the conference that led to the initiation of UNYS.
Another woman who continuously reminds me of the importance of maximising one’s full potential is Governor Caroline Abel, my boss and mentor. Forming UNYS necessitated the approval of the Central Bank of Seychelles Board. I was granted permission, provided that it does not affect my roles and responsibilities at work. It is motivating when your workplace is supportive of your volunteer work. We all have a job, and if we are not allowed to venture into things that we are passionate about to help others in society, who will do it? The Governor once told me, “It is good to do a bit of what affects us personally; it provides the growth we need.” From this advice, I believe women should support each other by recognising what others value and allowing them to express themselves and showcase their attributes, especially in professional settings. This can assist in boosting someone’s confidence, performance and giving them a sense of belonging.
Future of UNYS
Different teams are working on exciting initiatives, which we will announce soon. We will be reinforcing our strategies in project implementation and evaluation, connecting with other groups locally and internationally to maximise impact on various projects and introducing new initiatives and ways of working for sustainability and effectiveness.
If you would like to know more about UNYS, visit www.unyouthseychelles.org.