With the 8th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress (8WZYC) 2023 being hosted by the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE) in the United Kingdom (UK) in Summer 2023, a dedicated team of youth volunteers have already commenced early groundwork to start planning and organising this momentous event. As part of a series of articles, we will be sharing the insights and visions of our 8WZYC organising team.
Article by Shazneen Munshi, Venue Coordinator, 8WZYC
For those of you who may not know me, my name is Shazneen Munshi. Having graduated with a Law LLB degree from King’s College London, I work as a Policy Adviser to the CEO and Chairman of the Financial Ombudsman Service, an alternative dispute resolution organisation based in London’s Canary Wharf. In my spare time, I enjoy dancing from ballet to salsa, playing the piano and singing in a choir!
As the youngest member on the ZTFE Managing Committee, I have been running our monthly Extra Young Zoroastrian (XYZ) Fun Club religious education classes for children for the past six years, led in my role as Young Zoroastrian Chair for five years and continue to assist in the day to day running of the organisation.
My main passion in life is making a positive difference to our treasured Zoroastrian community by engaging and bringing together our youth. Growing up in the diaspora naturally brings its own challenges as first- and second-generation migrants. However, our community has grown from strength to strength in the UK over decades due to the hard work and commitment of all those who have dedicated their service. I am extremely proud to be a Young Zoroastrian in the UK today and being part of our vibrant community, with its indomitable spirit (and colourful characters!) fills me with a strong sense of belonging and joy. It is an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be involved in the 8WZYC in the hope that we can carry forward the Zoroastrian flame for future generations to come!
My first experience of a congress was at the 6th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress in New Zealand in 2015 where I was so proud to represent the UK Youth as a Speaker on the topic on how today’s youth inculcate a sense of pride about being Zoroastrian. Most recently in July 2019, I was invited to speak on the Women’s panel and Community Service panel at the 7th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress in Los Angeles. This also saw me being followed by the BBC for a World Service radio documentary which was a great experience!
Having now attended two youth congresses, I can truly say living, eating and being with 500 fellow Zarathushti youth was indeed a very surreal and special experience that I will treasure for my lifetime – almost like Hogwarts but for Young Zoroastrians! It’s definitely “A Kind of Magic” in Freddie’s words. As part of the experience, the host country also shared its culture and heritage with us from learning the Hakka in New Zealand to celebrating the 4th of July in Los Angeles.
For the 8WZYC in the UK, our vision is to build strong lasting global friendships, nurture worldwide communal initiatives and build on the future of our religion. As the Venue Lead for the 8WZYC, my role is to find the best environment and space to achieve our vision and create this strong legacy! Our key criteria for a venue include being close to the airport, accommodation and conference facilities for up to 500 delegates, dining and leisure facilities, and ensuring that the venue uses environmentally friendly and sustainable resources. We are keen to find a venue that is quintessentially English – we would love for our participants to experience the natural beauty, architecture and ancient history that our country has to offer!
The search began with researching potential venues from hotels to university campuses (and even Buckingham Palace!), sending letters to explain who we are and what we are looking for, obtaining relevant quotes and then presenting my findings to my fellow committee members. Progress has been good so far and we are now at the stage of visiting prospective venues with a view to negotiating rates. As past Young Zoroastrian Chair, my fantastic team and I organised a wide range of fun activities, regular events and trips for our youth as well as for the wider community. I have drawn on my experience and skills in the search for our venue – from leadership and event organisation skills to negotiation and building strong relationships with key contacts.
Another consideration that is linked to our venue search is catering. Food is very important to all Zoroastrians as well all know! We will be working closely with the venue as well as external caterers to make sure our delegates experience traditional delicacies, and that everyone is well fed!
Searching for our congress venue has been a wonderful experience which I am thoroughly enjoying. Being part of the congress committee is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am very excited to work together with our lovely team of volunteers to make the Congress an amazing experience for everyone! See you all in 2023 – London Baby!