Youth ambassadors 'honoured' to meet Michelle Obama at Toronto event
Kanwarpreet Karwal and Amir Siddique won Plan International Canada challenge for VIP access to Tuesday's talk
Two lucky youths say they are "honoured and privileged" to have been chosen to meet former United States first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday, when she will be in Toronto for a talk on equality for women and girls.
Obama will be at the Mattamy Centre at Ryerson University Tuesday morning for the event The Economics of Equality: Advancing Women and Girls to Change the World, which is hosted by the Economic Club of Canada in partnership with Plan International Canada. The event is being billed as a fireside chat kind of conversation.
While 3,000 tickets were sold to the talk, with half being donated to youths between the ages of 14 and 24, Plan International Canada ran an ambassador challenge, a contest to give two youths VIP access to the event, and to Obama herself.
Kanwarpreet Karwal and Amir Siddique were among the entrants to submit a one-minute video explaining what they wanted world leaders to do to advance gender equality globally.
On Monday, Karwal and Siddique explained why advancing gender equality is important for them.
Karwal, 21, noticed an ad for the contest on Facebook. The McMaster University student said she knew immediately she wanted to be there to share her ideas with "a strong world leader."
"I've always wanted since childhood to be part of an initiative that really makes a difference in one's life for the better, and I've really wanted to inspire others since I was a kid," Karwal told CBC Toronto.
"I'm very honoured and privileged to have received this opportunity."
Karwal would particularly like to talk to Obama about how the issue of gender equality is moving beyond affecting men and women, and ask her how to foster fairness and equal opportunities between cis gender females and transgender females.
She believes she can learn what initiatives can help "empower others and inspire others to make sure that gender equality is no longer an aspiration, that we are one step closer to gender equality."
She and Siddique are both looking forward to thank Obama for promoting the importance of education in creating change for girls and women.
'Broke my heart'
Siddique, an 18-year-old student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, said education "is the key to solving problems."
"If even women are in other countries, if they are given the proper resources, then it will be able to stimulate their minds and they will be able to grow on an intellectual level, which will help create a chain reaction where they are able to give back to their communities, as well," Siddique said.
He wanted to get involved in gender equality issues largely because, as a first-generation Canadian, he saw his mother treated as less-than-equal to his father.
"She left behind everything in her home country to be able to come to a new country and give her children a better life and still not be seen as an equal compared to my dad in society's eyes," Siddique told CBC Toronto.
"That just really broke my heart … And it wasn't just my mother. There are a lot of mothers out there who are not seen as equals in society's eyes."
Siddique is a poet, youth councillor in the City of Oshawa and is the founder of Wellness of Women (WOW), a student club at university that raises awareness about, and money for, women living in shelters.
Meeting Obama will be "an inspiration," he said, "because it's an experience to be able to learn from her and how I can utilize her experiences and utilize her advice to be able to contribute to society."
For Karwal, she's excited to meet the former first lady and would be willing to listen to her, no matter what she has to say.
"I just want to listen and learn," Karwal said. "Because listening and learning is the first step in creating that change."