Taking the stage at the IWT Conference
By Y4WC Member and IWT panelist Sofiya Shukhova
Last month I was privileged to represent Youth 4 Wildlife Conservation during the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Conference in London. The conference brought together policy makers, celebrities, experts and, thanks to Y4WC, early-career conservationists. It was extremely motivating and heart-warming to see the high-ranking individuals caring about wildlife and speaking up against the IWT, not to mention listening to The Duke of Cambridge’s opening speech, urging to protect wild animals for the future generations.
The two-day event was full of learning and networking opportunities and I would like to think that I did not miss any of them. By attending the different talks and the panel discussions, I learned about new solutions and perspectives around the wildlife trade. Sometimes, it is hard to see the global picture when you are working in the field. But I felt this event helped me to see the bigger picture and understand how different stakeholders deal with the IWT.
During the conference, I had an opportunity to meet new people and also reconnect with those I have previously collaborated with; from researchers, ex-colleagues in Asia to NGO representatives from around the world and fellow youth delegates. I was particularly glad to have an opportunity to connect with the specialists based in the UK, as since I have moved to this country, it would be useful to get involved with a local network. The event truly brought everybody from different backgrounds and areas of work together to discuss the issues of IWT.
I am thankful to Y4WC for inviting me to participate in their side-event. During the panel, me and two other Y4WC delegates, Danita Strickland and Zaki Zainol, were discussing the role of the early-career conservationists in tackling the IWT and I was glad to be able to talk about my experience of engaging youth in Russia. I felt empowered seeing conference participants listening to our discussion and engaging. We are finally getting our voices heard.
The opportunity to attend such an important and global-scale event along with a strong Y4WC youth delegation was paramount and I hope that we as a youth network can add a different perspective into future conversation discussions!
Sofiya Shukhova is a wildlife artist and social scientist.