“The real magic exists in the possibilities we create when we act together”
Reeta Roy, president of the MasterCard Foundation and one of the keynote speakers at the conference, presented an inspiring vision for engaging youth in economic development, and the transformational capacity that youth hold in that process. “Education without employment creates unrest”, stressed Reeta, “it’s a choice, education can be a source of completion but also social strife…the possibilities are for us to embrace”. We need to “extend beyond the classroom…change the mindset that university is the last stop, it is the first stop of a life ling journey of possibilities and we can achieve that in partnership”. The MasterCard Foundation works towards empowering people to move out of poverty…”we believe that within each of us is the power to transform our lives, our family – the foundation is about creating opportunities, to learn and to prosper”. Reeta spoke of the importance in creating pathways for young people to enter the world of work, “to get to a place where they are engaging in the economy on their own terms…we can only do this through partners”.
The MasterCard Foundation works with projects all over the world, with a particular focus on Africa. “In Africa we see the greatest possibility for transformation. We are here to listen and to learn from young people. We are interested in learning how young people perceive the world, how they see themselves as architects for solutions”. The Foundation promotes financial inclusion through micro-finance programs and youth learning primarily through partnerships with non-profit and non-governmental organizations. They are currently collaborating in 35 developing countries, helping people living in poverty to access opportunities to ‘learn and prosper’.
Reeta spoke of the role of universities as “dynamic, living, breathing institutions, part of the societies they are helping to construct…as a heartbeat part of an ecosystem, connecting students to policy makers and industries”. Universities are nurturing students, preparing them to engage the world, equipping them with communication and collaborative skills, enabling and cultivating creative thinking.
How do you do this in a world that is so profoundly complex? How do universities reach out beyond their own classrooms into the communities, how can they becomes agents of advancing greater equity?
“The promise of prosperity is more than education, we need to create possibilities that bridge students to the world, to engage in multiple levels of the economy and governance”. The MasterCard Foundation puts a special focus on those who are marginalized and on women, who have incredibly difficult barriers to overcome. “There is great urgency in the work we are doing, and the opportunities are just as immense…to help them become partners in prosperity”.
I was thrilled to meet Reeta following her presentation and ask her a few questions about what inspires her in the work she is doing.
- What inspires you?
“The people that our foundation are serving – the young people all over the world that are working to find a way to survive. The conversations that I have had with them are like oxygen to the brain, to the soul”.
- If there were one thing you could change in the world, what would it be?
“If there was something I could change…it would be to close the inequities, the gaps…to live life in dignity”.
- Was there anything particularly inspiring that stood out from the feedback session today?
“Yes, what Bhuto (one of our incredible student communication team members from South Africa) said…”lets ask the young people what they want and how to capture that…we are on the right track if we can do that”. Also, one of the speakers from Chile stressed that “brilliance has no boundaries…it’s just that some people have more boundaries than others”, that struck a chord with me. Another speaker from South Africa also hit a nerve, it’s a nerve chord for the whole world – “we need to create 1 billion new jobs, and this creates economic growth, particularly in Africa – giving young people the skills to do this”.
- Do you have any additional comments about civic engagement and expanding the role of higher education?
“We are barely tapping the surface of what higher-education has the capacity to do…to be able to tap that potential and to invite communities to solve problems together. Universities are part of an ecosystem – they are the level of intellectual hemisphere that resides in institutions. To be able to engage multiple parts of society – that’s when innovation can happen!”
My sincere gratitude goes out to Reeta Roy, for her vision and dedication, that through the Foundation is changing lives around the world, creating partnerships with communities and inspiring innovation and creativity for positive global change.
I urge you to visit the MasterCard Foundation website at: http://www.mastercardfdn.org/index.htm and see for yourself.