Young leaders converge at WonTok

The One World WonTok Poverty and Development Youth Conference is a joint education initiative of the Anglican Board of Mission (ABM) and UnitingWorld, the Uniting Church’s international community development and partnerships arm.

WonTok is held in six cities around Australia, and the focus of this year’s conference was raising awareness about the causes of poverty and how the global community has committed to addressing those concerns with the Sustainable Development Goals.

In Pidgin English, ‘wontok’ means ‘one speak.’ Culturally the term encompasses much more than just its literal meaning.

Sarah Gover, education officer for ABM, explained during the opening of the conference, the word is also used to describe the community one belongs to.

One World WonTok gives high school students the opportunity to join together in conversations about the serious topics that affect the world both today and into the future.

Sarah encouraged the students “Take this opportunity to share with each other and learn from each other.”

Students partook in four workshops on Climate Action, Gender Equality, Transitioning from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals and The Wontok Card Game.

The card game is the brain child of the ABM education team and is designed to help students to understand key development and poverty indicators across the world.

In the Gender Inequality workshop students discussed how gender inequality contributes to education rates and the cycle of poverty in developing countries. They also discussed how gender inequality can be addressed in Australia, citing ideas like deconstructing stereotypes and stigma around mental health care and finding ways to ensure job security for pregnant women and women with young children.

The opportunity for students to not just learn about global issues, but to also discuss them and present their own ideas for addressing them is the defining feature of WonTok.

When asked about why he attended WonTok Hendy, from Guildford Grammar School said, “Because it’s the first step to changing the world.”

Jamie, from Perth Ladies’ College, answered simply, “We’re interested in helping people in poverty.”

Geoffrey Bice, justice and mission officer at Uniting Church WA, said “UnitingWorld does such fantastic work alongside our international partners so it is great that some of the students in our Uniting Church schools are able to hear those stories and see how they might be able to support some of these international projects.”

Seeing the compassion and eagerness of students to help others and to improve the world for the future made the whole day vibrant with hope for change. For the next generation of leaders to make meaningful change in the world, they need forums to meet together to be educated and to discuss how to take action on the major issues our world faces.

WonTok is doing just that.

Elaenor Nield


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