The Future Generations Leadership Academy is a leadership programme for 18-30 year-olds putting the Well-being of Future Generations Act into action.

Applications for open recruitment for this year’s academy close on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

Here, recent graduate Yusra Chaudhary shares how the Academy, along with her work to reduce period stigma, helped her realise there’s more than one way to be a leader…

“I was always being told at school to speak up. Most people in my family are really outgoing, so I stood out.

I’m an introvert but I’m passionate, and yet when I imagined leaders, I thought of people who were extroverted and outspoken.”

When Yusra, 26, from Grangetown, Cardiff, graduated from a Masters in International Relations at Cardiff University in July 2023, she found out about the Future Generations Leadership Academy, run by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Derek Walker. 

The eight-month course, offering online and in-person leadership training for young leaders, runs every September to March, training in how to understand Wales’ pioneering Well-being of Future Generations Act, and use it to bring change in Wales.  

“When I graduated, I knew I wanted to gain experience in any way I could. I wanted to build upon my other skillsets like leadership, networking, but also build upon my confidence skills. I was drawn to what the Academy stood for and I applied straight away. 

The process was really simple and the interview was relaxed. I felt understood for who I was and what I could offer to the mission to make Wales and the world a better place for future generations.” 

Yusra was able to talk in the interview about how she had used her voice during the pandemic, when she ran a campaign to reduce period stigma for people in minority ethnic communities. With five friends, she set up PSA (Public Service Announcement, and Positive, Sustainable and Accessible) – Periods, offering a safe space for people to share their stories and gain information and access to period products. 

“Periods are stigmatised in some Asian communities. In my family, it was hush hush. Silence around periods can affect your health, hygiene, all aspects of your life from the workplace to your social life. 

“Girls, women and trans people don’t always have access to period products so they can resort to using things like newspaper, old T shirts. I wanted to help change that and I found joy in raising awareness and creating this small community on Instagram.” 

The campaign won Plan International’s Young Changemakers Award and the experience reiterated for Yusra that her voice could have impact. 

And Yusra learned on the Academy, while networking with changemakers from organisations such as WWF Cymru, to CEOs, that leaders come in all personality types. 

Those on the course get to mentor Welsh leaders, inform the commissioner’s work, and create action plans to drive change at future workplaces.  

Yusra developed her period stigma campaign for her own action plan, using the Future Generations Act to vision a community-based hub where people felt comfortable and open, bringing down cultural barriers through education. 

“The Academy helped me realise that who I am was great and that I was enough. 

“I learned it’s ok to be a quiet person and that I have a quiet confidence. You don’t need to change to fit in anywhere. 

“I learned how to interact with other introverts, with extroverts and with all types of people who might have different approaches to me. 

“Society values people who are outgoing and from a young age, my quietness was always seen as a barrier by other people. This was discouraging, especially as a young girl growing up. But I learned I can achieve what I want to achieve, by still being me, and that there is room in society for quiet leaders. 

“I’m quiet but I always make an effort to meet with and talk to new people. It doesn’t come easy, but I always try.” 

Since graduating from the Academy this year, Yusra now works as a committee support officer at the Senedd, providing impartial support to committees at the Welsh parliament. 

“In the future, I’d like to work in policy and continue using my passion for menstrual health or women’s issues, gender-based violence, to create change.  

“We’ve come a long way, and personally, in my family, we talk about periods, now. 

“The Academy was an amazing experience and the best thing is the people you meet and the fact you join an alumni network. We have a huge group chat that I can tap into any time I need support. 

“I didn’t see people like me when I was growing up. Being on the Academy, meeting amazing leaders like Uzo Iwobi MBE, CEO of Race Council Cymru, showed me what’s possible. 

“I love thinking big and the Academy helped me to use my skills to think long-term and about how what we do every day can change the future for the better.” 

Applications for open recruitment (for individuals not applying through an organisation), are open until this Sunday, June 16, 2024. 

To apply for the Future Generations Leadership Academy, visit: https://www.futuregenerations.wales/leadership-academy-2/