The theme for International Women’s Day this year is: “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” a rallying call for action to fulfill the promises made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted in 1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action remains as relevant today as it was 20 years ago, to men and women alike. The steps outlined in it give the most progressive roadmap to a world where women and men, girls and boys have equal rights and opportunities.
2015 is a critical year for us. Not only are we commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, but we are also transitioning from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, which will shape our lives for the next 15 years. International Women’s Day 2015 is a call for action for everyone to make gender equality a reality by 2030. Achieving the proposed 17 Sustainable Development Goals hinges on achieving gender equality. It is not enough to have a single goal on gender equality in the new development agenda. Girls’ and women’s needs and priorities must be reflected in all other development goals and targets. If the new development agenda is to build a better world then it must work for all groups of people. It must be underpinned by human rights and change the unequal distribution of power, resources and opportunities that have perpetuated poverty, gender inequality and environmental degradation.
For a very long time, gender equality has been labeled as a “women’s issue” and that has to change moving forward. Gender equality is everyone’s business. We are talking about half the world’s population and inequality hurts us all. Young people have the biggest stake in this agenda as we will inherit its successes… and its shortcomings. Young people must be included in the conversation and in the implementation of the gender equality agenda. Gender inequality is not an abstract concept for us. Its implications are real and hard, in every sphere of our lives – from education to employment, peace and security, environment and more. As of January 2015, only 22% of all national parliamentarians are women, although having more women in office has shown positive results for all, and only 24% of women are represented in senior management. Achieving gender equality means every child having equal access to quality education, women actively participating in politics and development and having equal access to job opportunities at all levels, as well as access to quality health care. It means that women and girls have the voice and the choice in the policy decisions that impact their lives.
Growing up in rural Kenya, gender inequality was a norm, and for a long time I believed that was how the world operated. When you are born in the village and you are not aware of any other reality you tend to imagine that whatever is happening in your community – both good and bad – is universally acceptable. For instance, gender-based violence is plaguing our communities and hindering women and girls’ development in many ways, but it is largely accepted as a norm and rarely questioned. A product of inequality, gender-based violence is perpetuating further inequality and holding us back. It is time that we started raising our voices and speaking out against gender-based violence. For many women in my community, reporting such violence is not easy because at the end of the day the blame and shame is often placed on the survivor. There is an urgent need for countries to start creating and reinforcing laws that address gender-based violence and give survivors access to justice.
Access to education changed my life for the better and I am deeply informed on the issues and causes that I care about. So many girls, especially from marginalized communities, do not have the same opportunities that I have received. It is not easy to take action when you lack the necessary information and prospects. We have to make sure that both girls and boys have equal access to quality education beyond elementary school and up to higher learning institutions. Education empowers and also equips young people with the skills they need to start their own economic ventures or actively compete in the global market for top jobs. It empowers them to challenge stereotypes and injustices. This accepted inequality has given us more than 30 million young girls lacking access to education. We need to change the status quo and address gender inequality with the urgency that it deserves.
Engaging with organizations, such as UN Women, Half the Sky Movement and Moremi Initiative, has been very instrumental in providing me with a platform and also a network of young women who are passionate about gender equality. Youth participation is central to the work that UN Women is doing, and in my role as a youth representative I engage with young people both at the local and international level on issues related to gender equality and women’s empowerment. To achieve gender equality we need collaboration and partnerships that cut across all different sectors and we cannot forget to engage our male counterparts in addressing this human rights issue. UN Women’s HeForShe campaign does this simply and effectively by involving men and boys in speaking out for gender equality.
Young people have one of the most critical roles to play in the effort to build an equal, just and sustainable world. As the world leaders and the UN shape the new development agenda, young people need to engage their political leaders, share information at local levels, and make sure that they hold their leaders accountable in addressing gender equality both at the national and international levels. I am confident that we will achieve gender equality by 2030 if we all play our part. There is no time to lose. Humanity can’t wait any longer.
About the Author:
Vivian Onano is a youth representative at UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, an External Relations Fellow with African Leadership Academy and a spokesperson for Education for Moremi Africa. She is a Kenyan native who is very passionate and dedicated to women and girls’ empowerment and youth issues. She can be reached at @vivianonano.
The Building Bridges Team is now in Spain and will shape the post-2015 agenda through the eyes of young people in the country. Among the most pressing issues are youth unemployment, the education system and an honest and responsive government. The team will have consultations in the north, central and south of Spain and you can follow their journey and see the results through their Facebook page. More
The Inter-agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) will hold its annual meeting on 24-25th March in New York. The youth focal points of the 43 member entities will gather to jointly take stock of the IANYD’s work in 2014-2015 and discuss opportunities for collaboration for the coming year. At the meeting, UNIDO will hand-over the rotating co-chairmanship to UNDP who will head the network alongside the UN Focal point on Youth in UN DESA through 2016.
UN Entities Highlighted News
UNFPA: Gender Based Violence from a Youth Lens
The theme of the 2014 Let’s Talk 72 Hour Film Challenge was preventing gender based violence. Some 150 young girls and boys participated to make a movie within 72 hours. The results of the challenge, organized by VAPA NGO and the Y-PEER network in Lebanon with UNFPA’s support, were announced during an award ceremony that was also attended by UNFPA Representatives. Three winning movies were selected by a renowned jury panel while two others were given special jury mention.
WFP: Celebrating A Decade Of Students Committed To A World With Zero Hunger
The World Food Programme and Universities Fighting World Hunger (UFWH) marked a decade of mobilizing students in the fight against hunger with the 2015 UFWH Summit at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, on 20-22 February 2015. In 2004, WFP and Auburn University partnered to generate a university movement against hunger, and UFWH has grown to a network of nearly 300 campuses taking action worldwide. The 2015 Summit focused on pushing the movement forward into the next decade.
To address the issues faced by the Maldivian youth, UNDP Maldives, under its Integrated Governance Programme (IGP), is using the innovative technique of community-based theatre (CBT) to promote greater social cohesion in vulnerable communities. These dialogues bring people from all walks of life together to openly discuss problems and promote the inclusion of multiple perspectives on critical social issues. This initiative builds upon the intellectual, emotional, and creative resources of participants to engage young people in constructive dialogue. More
UNDP Pacific Centre: Pacific Youth Advocate Against Corruption
The Pacific Youth Forum Against Corruption is an initiative that brings together youth leaders from 15 Pacific Island countries to discuss ways to address corruption in the region. The inaugural event was held on 22-24 February in Nadi, Fiji. The initiative aims to provide an opportunity to raise awareness on corruption and its negative impacts in their respective countries. The goal is to give a voice to the young and marginalised people in the region who are speaking out against corruption and its corrosive effects on society. A highlight of the forum was the Capturing Corruption photo contest, won by entries from the Cook Islands and the Solomon Islands. More
UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub: Asia and Pacific LGBTI Advocates Call for Human Rights for All
A landmark regional dialogue convened by UNDP this week in Bangkok provided a unique platform for advancing rights of young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. Some 200 participants from over 30 countries gathered for the three-day Regional Dialogue on LGBTI Human Rights and Health in Asia-Pacific, including civil society, people living with disabilities, government and human rights experts, the private sector, and development partners. Participants reflected on advances achieved in recent years and persistent challenges in regards to LGBTI rights and access to health, education, employment and social protection. More
UNFPA GCC Participated in Muscat Festival 2015
UNFPA GCC participated in the annual Muscat Festival in January 2015 and supported the Youth Peer Education Network (Y-PEER), a network of young peers who specialize in raising awareness on substance abuse and health issues among the youth though “Edutainment” methodology. At the festival, a group of Y-PEER volunteers trained by the Ministry of Health experts on health & civic subjects conducted activities that attracted visitors through theatre performances, question and answer interactions, group discussions along with games & quizzes. Awareness materials were also distributed. More
IFAD: Rural Youth Economic Empowerment Programme
IFAD's Near East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia Division hosted a knowledge sharing event on rural youth and economic empowerment in the Near East and North Africa. Through a regional grant, IFAD is partnering with Making Cents International and Silatech to increase employment and self-employment opportunities of more than 18,000 young people between 15 and 35 years old. Covering four countries, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen, the joint programme will test innovative financial and non-financial engagement tools for young rural people.
UNDP: Tech for Citizen Engagement Challenge: Submissions are in!
Submissions are now in for the cross-regional Technology for Citizen Engagement Challenge, which will see the best selected proposals from the Arab States, Europe and the CIS region. Those selected will be supported with mentoring, funding, and an opportunity to attend and contribute to the Build Peace conference in Nicosia, Cyprus in April. The challenge is run on the Mahallae platform – check it out and leave your input and comments to the ideas that have been posted! More
ILO: Global Research Symposium: Innovative Research from 28 School-to-Work Transition Surveys
The ILO Global Research Symposium (Geneva, 3-4 March 2015) provided an opportunity for researchers and development practitioners to present and discuss innovative research on themes of youth employment and labour market transitions and applicability to policy and programme advice and implementation. In May 2014, the ILO issued a Call for Papers with the objective of offering researchers worldwide the opportunity to use the School-to-work Transition Survey (SWTS) as a primary tool for innovative analysis of youth employment. More
ILO: Promoting Productive and Decent Work for Youth in Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia
With support from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) this ILO programme aims to improve the effectiveness of youth employment policies and programmes in Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, and to establish a regional cooperation framework for youth employment. Learn more about the labour market situation of young people and the results of this programme on the programme website.
Youth in Action
Novia Salcedo Foundation (NSF) at the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2015
Representatives of the Novia Salcedo Foundation (NSF), Ms. Helena Orella and Ms. Maria Jesus Novo, attended the ECOSOC Youth Forum on 2-3 February 2015, held at the United Nations headquarters in New York. At the forum, NSF had the opportunity to present the "International Campaign for Youth Employment Decade”. The Campaign’s ultimate goal is that the General Assembly of the United Nations declares 2016-2025 as the "Youth employment Decade". A declaration that will encourage Member States to consider youth employment as a priority in their policies.
Green Hope UAE: Youth Workshop on Building Disaster Resilience
As a buildup to the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR)
in Sendai, Japan, Green Hope UAE conducted a youth workshop on disaster resilience for high school students in the United Arab Emirates. The objective was to build a culture of disaster resilience amongst the youth, who often are at the greatest risk. This awareness-raising workshop conveyed that each decision/action can makes us more vulnerable to disasters - or more resilient to them. Green Hope UAE also wanted to show their solidarity with the "Safe Schools" programme in our region.
Green the Gene is a completely youth-run, non-profit global environmental movement, founded in 2004 by a group of passionate, determined, and concerned youth. Back in school, they were taught about environmental problems and how they affect us all. What started as a small school club, led by the 18 year old Founder & President MadhavDatt, has now successfully built a global grassroots movement for positive environmental action with 4500+ children and youth volunteers across 42 countries. More
SERAC-Bangladesh: Youth Fighting Gender Based Violence in Bangladesh
SERAC-Bangladesh with the support from a leading women’s rights organization, Women Deliver, started a project named ‘Social rising for dowry and early marriage prevention, in short ‘Jagoroni’. The project has already trained 650 young people in the Mymensingh district in Bangladesh to advocate against child marriage by creating youth-led watchdog groups. The Jagoroni Project has received great responses from the community and has also won the top award at the C-Exchange Youth Initiative programme organised by Women Deliver.
YouthCorp seeks to inspire youth to create change and empower underprivileged youth worldwide by connecting global organizations started by teens. It was founded by five teens from three different countries looking to make a change. Although YouthCorp only recently launched, they already have businesses, apps, nonprofits and publications on four continents. Teens will have a greater impact in their efforts to make a difference if they learn from and work with youth who are also creating change. More
Restless Development: Global Agreements, Grassroots Advocacy
A new toolkit called ‘Global Agreements, Grassroots Advocacy: Youth and Governance in a Post-2015 world’ was recently launched by Restless Development and Plan UK. It equips young people with the knowledge and terminology they need to know, explains why and how young people can be involved in governance processes and supports them to build an advocacy plan so that they can influence key decision-making processes as we near September 2015 and the finalisation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
JVE: Clean Energy for all in Africa
JVE is a non-profit organization focusing on energy, climate, and development. Currently, JVE is active in 27 countries in Africa thanks to the CLENA Project (Clean Energy for Africa). In 2015 a new initiative will be added: youth green entrepreneurship. JVE is working hard to take a leading role in the energy/climate field in Africa. A main focus will be to strengthen the administrative and organizational capacity of the national representation, mobilize and engage people through media and demonstrations, and most importantly, facilitate participation from local communities. More
Youth Protecting the Water
Barranquilla+20 has been conducting training in water education with the children of the Mallorquin area in order to promote water conservation. The goal is to educate the community on the importance of not polluting and destroying the swamp and preserving the naturally growing mangrove forest. These educational activities are improving sanitary conditions and empowering the local communities to better care for their environment and, therefore, their rights and economic activities.
This ILO technical brief, based on an analysis of the recent School-to-work transition surveys (SWTS) from 28 low- and middle-income countries, aims to contribute to a better understanding of the NEET rate, the share of youth which are neither in employment nor in education or training in the youth population.
ILO: Work4Youth report on labour market transitions of young women and men in Viet Nam
This ILO report presents the highlights of the 2013 School-to-work Transition Survey (SWTS) and the Labour Demand Enterprise Survey (LDES) run together with the General Statistics Office of Viet Nam within the framework of the ILO Work4Youth Project. While unemployment may be higher among the better educated, the results clearly show that investing in education brings positive returns to youth in terms of wages and access to the “better” jobs.
At the heart of every health system, the workforce is central to improving health. A wide range of professionals are involved in health care for adolescents. The newly published WHO document “Core competencies in adolescent health and development for primary care providers” aims to help countries build an adolescent-competent workforce. The document provides guidance on how to assess and improve the structure, content and quality of the adolescent health component of pre-service curricula.