Karakum Leadership Forum - Paving the Way for New Youth Led Programs

  “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”-Helen Keller.

            On August 20-21, Arzuw Foundation successfully gathered 15 young Turkmen leaders and scholars in Washington, DC for Karakum Leadership Forum. The purpose of the forum was to design and implement youth centered programs and opportunities for ambitious Turkmen youth in and out Turkmenistan. Motivated KLF participants arrived not only from the East and West Coast of the United States, but also from Europe and Turkmenistan itself.

           On the first day of the Forum, KLF participants held an action-oriented discussion on the importance of Youth-Adult Partnerships with Amy Bernath, IREX representative. The discussion involved various approaches of Youth-Adult partnership and mentorship for the future advancement of Turkmen community. Furthermore, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan and a founder of International Media Solutions, Mike Clarke engaged participants on the role of modern technology in shaping young people’s social involvement, precisely the power of social media in changing the way we interact and respond to social issues. “It was great to meet so many young, ambitious Turkmen leaders. They give me hope for a bright Turkmen future,” Mike C. said. The first day ended with powerful brainstorming sessions for improvement of youth demand-driven programs and delivery of youth voice and influence within the Turkmen society.

          On the second day of the Karakum Leadership Forum, the participants held discussions and talks about the importance of digital security, learnt about social entrepreneurship as a mechanism for economic empowerment, and attended meetings with key development institutions in Washington DC, that are established precisely for enhancement of youth participation and execution of numerous programs for youth leadership. During the meetings, our Turkmen scholars gained knowledge on youth social entrepreneurship, youth civic engagement and youth initiation.

“The KLF forum was amazing and useful, also it gave hope seeing educated and talented students who are passionate to help the people back home. It was motivational and helpful, which offered connections and networking,” one of the KLF participants said. Indeed, our young Turkmen scholars are full of passion, aspiration and motivation, the traits that gradually transform into powerful actions for youth development and social engagement.

         In addition to the diverse conversations and discussions, two of our Arzuw scholars, Dursun H. and Jahan T. presented their already implemented research in comparative analysis of youth challenges and opportunities in Turkmenistan and Myanmar, along with studies on Internet influence on Turkmen girls’ personal and social development.

              The final result of Karakum Leadership Forum was the development of demand-driven recommendations for Arzuw Foundation and building Karakum Scholars Network that will assemble like-minded Turkmen leaders, intellectuals and scholars who aim towards a common outcome.

            “Karakum Leadership Forum was a great opportunity to meet enthusiastic, dedicated and inspiring young people from my country. For a long time, I felt like I was isolated from the community. I was looking for support from people who believe that certain things should be done, improved, changed and introduced in Turkmenistan. I hope that newly established Karakum Scholars Network will grow both in numbers and influence and serve as a solid ground for productive youth engagement and effective communication,” said Ali H., KLF participant.