Reflections from Future Leaders on Attending Inspiring Stories' Festival For the Future

Sharon Ndlovu

Kia Ora, my name is Sharon Ndlovu. I’m from Zimbabwe and I moved to New Zealand with my family when I was 7 months old (so I pretty much spent my entire life here) and have lived in different places all around the country. I am currently a year 13 student, a co-leader of a charitable group for students within the school called Young Vinnies and I am part of Whangarei Future Leaders (this year being storyteller catalyst). I am the eldest child of 4 kids and I am passionate about leaving my mark on the world. I aspire to be a good role model for my siblings and others, and make a difference (even if small) in the world.

1.       How long have you been part of the Future Leaders programme?

I’ve been a part of Future Leaders for nearly two years now.

2.       Why did you join the Future Leaders programme?

In 2019 my friend had a family friend who did the program and recommended it to her. She got invited to the end of year award ceremony that showcased what the 2019 Future Leaders had accomplished in that year. I’ve always wanted to join a club or do something after school because I felt like I needed to get out of my comfort zone. That award ceremony made my friend and I want to be involved, because for me, Future Leaders looked like a program that would challenge me to talk to other people outside my friend group and to make commitments outside of school. It also meant that I’ll be spending time doing something meaningful and helping my own community.

3.       Part of the Future Leaders experience is attending Festival for the Future. What was the highlight of FFTF21 for you and why?

For me it was when I got asked to do the ‘Ask an Expert’ panel to represent the Future Leaders program with three other Future Leaders. I was a bit hesitant to do it beforehand because it was outside my comfort zone (I’m a shy person) but I’m glad that I did it because I had a lot of fun. To my surprise I liked meeting and talking to many different people from adults who worked at councils, therapy, other youth groups etc and it was nice getting to talk to other youth who were a part of councils and other youth groups. I also enjoyed representing the Future Leaders program because I got to talk about what we had accomplished this year to help our community and what we are planning on doing for the rest of the year. It was definitely my highlight of FFTF21 because it broadened my horizon as I also got to hear about what these people were doing in their jobs and in their own community.

4.         What are some of the things you learned at FFTF that you feel will help you in your future?

There was this one speaker that really touched my heart was Hon Priyanca Radhakrishnan who was the minister of Youth and inclusion for ethnic communities. From memory, she is a woman of colour who was hesitant to run for elections for that role because she didn't think anyone would vote for a non kiwi and when she did decide to run she got told that she needed to change her last name to her husband's white name to get more votes. So essentially people told her that she needed to whitewash herself to fit into this eurocentric idea of what people find acceptable. In the end she didn’t change her last name and she won the role by being herself. A big worry for me is that after I graduated, would I have to change myself and let go of my culture just to land? It’s something that is on my mind a lot, being stuck between wanting to continue to hold on to my culture (for context, I’m from Zimbabwe) and wanting to be financially secure. What Hon Priyanca Radhakrishnan taught me is that I don’t need to change myself to fit into what anyone wants but rather be my true authentic self and find a place that fits my ideals.

5.       Thinking about what you learnt and what you heard from speakers/panels/workshops. Have you been motivated to make any changes, or get involved in any other projects or learn something new?

There were two speakers that opened my eyes to issues I never really thought about. The first issue presented by the speaker Jacinta Gulasekharam was period poverty. When she brought this issue up, I never realised that before this year, I didn’t make the connection on how this affected poor people who are not in the position to be able to afford products every month, especially since the good products aren’t exactly cheap. It made me want to learn more about the issue with period poverty and poverty in general and help with this issue. At school I am co leader of a charitable group and I got the group to do fundraisers at school which we raised money to donate to different organisations that help women in poverty. The second issue presented by Shaneel Lal was Conversion Therapy, I knew what it was but I didn’t really know much about the issue until Shaneel came upto the stage. Since then I have gone on to educate myself more on this issue and I have signed petitions to end conversion therapy in New Zealand.

6.       Robert Walters provided sponsorship which contributed to the funding required to bring our Future Leaders to the Festival. They are a world-leading specialist recruitment consultancy, and would be keen to hear about your career plans and aspirations. What are your career plans? Were these plans or ideas changed or influenced in any way from attending the Festival?

I’m still in highschool at the moment and although I am graduating this year, I still have no clue about what I want to do in the future. FFTF definitely opened my eyes to many different jobs out there which helps me open up my options, however I am still trying to figure out what I’m going to do in future. My hope is that I will get the opportunity to try out different things and eventually find something I like and stick with it.

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