Sonia Parulekar at the Young Leaders Summit in Kuala Lumpur

4 Jul 2016


Co-op scholar Sonia Parulekar represented Australia at the ASEAN Young Leaders Summit in Kuala Lumpur - 18-22 November 2015.

The ASEAN Summit is a semiannual meeting held by the member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in relation to economic, and cultural development of Southeast Asian countries.

Sonia was one of the Australia's delegate in the 'Leadership' Stream where there were recommendations to foster youth leadership and growth in the ASEAN region. The recommendations were then presented to the Prime Ministers /Presidents of ASEAN nations & dialogue partners at the official ASEAN Summit.

Photo: Sonia Parulekar with Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull at the buniness function hosted by the Australian High Comission in honour of Prime Minister Turnbull's visit to Malaysia. 

Sonia describes her experience at the ASEAN Young Leaders Summit in Kuala Lumpur 2015:

As a New Colombo Plan Scholar I was fortunate enough to be selected by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to be a part of the Australian delegation to the ASEAN Young Leaders Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The summit, held in conjunction with the official 27th ASEAN Summit, provided a platform for the youth leaders of ASEAN member states and dialogue partner nations to discuss global issues and create recommendations.

During the first part of the summit we attended talks by government, business and non-for profit organisations to better understand key regional issues under the four pillars: Entrepreneurship; Leadership; Volunteerism; and Education and Employment. We were then separated into focus groups under one of the four pillars to concentrate on issues and solutions that directly pertained to that area. 

I was selected to represent Australia in the Leadership Pillar. Led by leaders in a variety of sectors we initially analysed the impact youth leadership can have to address the root causes of pertinent regional issues.

We then participated in a community-based activity to gain first hand experience on the issues we had discussed. As a part of the Leadership pillar, we travelled to the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur to partner with the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Malaysia, a non-for profit international organisation of young leaders. Here we went out on the streets to interview locals to gain a better understanding of what they believed to be the main issues that affected them. We were then able to write recommendations that directly utilised the idea of leadership to effect change in the community.

These recommendations were presented for implementation to the Prime Minister of Malaysia and all the heads of ASEAN member states, at the official opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit, which we attended.

Participating in the ASEAN Young Leaders summit was an incredible experience.

Listening to the locals stories during the community based activity has given me a fresh perspective on ways in which young people are able to actively engage with and address the problems faced by the region.

This summit has allowed me to connect with other young leaders while providing a platform to better understand social and economical issues that face ASEAN and potential ways to rectify these.