Every year, 12th August marks International Youth Day. The idea for International Youth Day was proposed in 1991 by a group of young individuals who gathered during the first session of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System. The purpose of this international day is to spotlight matters concerning youth at a global scale and to celebrate the potential of youth as active collaborators and partners in the global community.
Young people should be at the core of the movement to end CEFMU.
Young people have the capacity, capability, and creativity to make change happen. As individuals, leaders, and future parents, they have the power to end child, early, and forced marriages and unions (CEFMU) within the next generation. Young people – including girls at risk of child marriage and already-married girls – are most affected by CEFMU and its drivers. Therefore, their voices and views must be at the heart of solutions.
Meaningful youth participation is a fundamental right provided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and highlighted in the World Programme of Action for Youth and many other provisions. Girls, adolescents, and young people need to be included in a meaningful way in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes that have a direct impact on their daily lives. We need to create more spaces for them to influence policy and hold leaders accountable.
Young people should be at the forefront for change and must be supported in the best way possible to deliverBabrah Namara, Joy for Children, Uganda
Young people should be invited into global convening spaces: reflections from Women Deliver 2023
We were all recently sponsored by Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage to attend the recent Women Deliver Conference 2023 in Kigali. Thanks to the diverse range of speakers and sessions, we gained valuable insights into the challenges women face globally and learned about innovative solutions being implemented. The conference was a great opportunity to network and learn from experts, activists, and other gender advocates. We were able to connect with like-minded individuals from around the world, fostering collaborations and partnerships that will further drive positive change in our work towards gender equality. Women Deliver 2023 was delivered with a strong sense of purpose and a shared commitment to achieving gender equality, especially through working to find spaces, solidarity, and solutions to drive progress.
The Women Deliver Conference was super inspiring and empowering, and it has galvanized my passion and commitment to advocate for women's rights and gender equality”Matina Ebri Okpo, African Girls Empowerment (AGE) Network, Nigeria
The Women Deliver Conference had a strong focus on strengthening individual capacity of youth advocates, advocating for youth co-creation and co-leadership in global gender equality advocacy spaces, and convening young people for collective action. This is a great forward step towards young people being included in solutions and having spaces to influence policy and programming. Youth and youth-led organisations were part of the WD2023 Advisory Group — charged with leading the strategic design and planning of the Conference. There was also Scholarships and financial support provided to facilitate the attendance of 300 Women Deliver Young Leaders, a Youth Pre-Conference, and a dedicated Youth Zone, designed by young people, to support the youth movement.
J’étais impressionné de voir qu’il y avait un espace dédié aux jeunes appelée « Youth Zone » animé par les jeunes pour les jeunes.
Translation: I was impressed to see that there was a space dedicated to young people called the Youth Zone, run by young people for young peopleBenedicte Kansano, Coalition Nationale pour l’Abandon du Mariage d’Enfants (CONAMEB), Burkina Faso.
However, there is notably still a chasm between where we want to get to, and where we are now. The number of young people speaking in panel discussions was still too low, even at youth specific events. And at youth specific events where young people were invited onto panels, it was notable that the audience mainly consisted of young people, and not the stakeholders and decision-makers that we want to be listening to us. We still have a way to go in creating the spaces needed to really support young people in influencing the agenda.
How we can strengthen the youth participation in international spaces and decision-making?
Decision-makers should not just involve, engage, and invite them to participate, but rather support young people to be part of the change, embrace change, and to spread change because I believe the future for young people is now not tomorrowBabrah Namara, Joy for Children, Uganda
Resource young individuals through financing and mentorship.
Young people may not have access to the financial resources needed to join global spaces. And although young people are capable and have the ability, knowledge, and skills to co-create impactful solutions, it cannot be assumed that all young people have the same level of access to training and mentorship, and therefore confidence, that will support them in feeling able to share their perspectives, opinions, and solutions, in a way that will be listened to by people from older generations. Therefore, it is vital that young people are adequately supported and resourced so that they can access and influence advocacy spaces.
Girls are powerful. They can make choice; we just need to support them. Research shows that young people who are supported to participate in decision-making are more likely to have increased confidence and self-belief, exercise positive career choices and have greater involvement and responsibility in the future.Graca Machel, Co-Founder and Deputy Chair of The Elders at Women Deliver 2023
Act now and let us be part of the solution.
Action is the key. We are stuck in commitments and commitments and it’s exhausting to keep hearing how everyone will start building strategies to include young people. Just do it, it’s not that hard.Luisa Castro, Girl Up Mexico at Women Deliver 2023
Decision-makers need listen to young people and let them be part of the solution. They need to acknowledge that the experiences of young people, whatever those are, are valid. And these experiences mean we have the expertise needed on the issues that affect us as young women and young people to co-create strategies, policies, and programmes. Accountability mechanisms need to be simple, understandable, and friendly. Current accountability mechanisms are often long reports that are difficult to understand, and so actually drives a wedge between Governments and international agencies, and the young people they are aiming to serve.
Break down the barriers for youth-led organisations.
Where decision-makers are funding youth-led organisations, there needs to be an understanding that funding does not mean ownership. Presumably, to fund it in the first place, there is an understanding that the organisation had devised a strong agenda that serves to provide solutions to the problems that need addressing. So, decision-makers need to support youth-led organisations to implement that agenda, and not try to change their agenda. Funding processes also need to be realistic for youth-led organisations, especially those that are small or new. They may not have the infrastructure or existing resourcing in place to meet the “typical” criteria for funding applications, such as having a registered office. These become barriers to accessing the resources required to provide youth-led solutions.
Es necesaria la voluntad de adoptar una perspectiva no-adultocentrica para crear espacios seguros donde las juventudes puedan proponer, idear, participar, solucionar.
Translation: A willingness to adopt a non-adult-centric perspective is necessary to create safe spaces where young people can propose, devise, participate, solve.Luisa Castro, Girl Up Mexico
Our advice to young people wanting to get involved in advocacy spaces
1. Discover what you are passionate about.
There are so many issues that affect women and girls. Pick one that you intend to change, and then don’t be afraid to speak up. By raising your voice for women's rights and gender equality, you can spread awareness and break down barriers. Because your voice is powerful and can make a difference.
Advocacy is my Passion and My Pride.Dorinda Odonghanro, Equitable Health Access Initiative, Nigeria
2. Up-skill in the areas you need.
Locate the right mentor who will support you on your advocacy journey. Continually update your knowledge so that your advocacy actions always come from a strong evidence-based approach. Continue to develop your communications skills – knowing and understanding your audience, your message, and how you can convey that message to your audience is critical to being impactful.
3. Build networks.
Collaborate on different platforms - in person or online - to build community and raise awareness. Networking can help you seize opportunities, connect you with people who share the same passion and share information and communication among peers. It will help you better understand the cause you are advocating for and how it affects others. Networking will help your advocacy become more inclusive and broaden your perspective. You can network by attending events like Women Deliver, using social media or online platforms.
4. And finally, don't give up!
Sometimes the pressures feel exhausting, and advocacy spaces can feel frustrating. Put your mental and physical health first, be prepared for the setbacks and challenges. Change takes time, so be patient. But a big change is made up of lots of small changes over a long period of time. So most importantly, never give up on your vision.
In the time it has taken to read this article 95 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 2 seconds
Joy for Children, Uganda
Babrah is passionate about advocacy and Sustainable development goals most especially; gender equality, inclusive education and children’s rights and wellbeing. Holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts with Education(Secondary) from Uganda Martyrs University (Nkozi) and currently pursuing a Post Graduate Diploma in Project Planning and Management at Uganda Management Institute. She has been greatly involved in the development and review of the National strategy to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Uganda (2022/23-2026/27).
Babrah sits on youth coordination committee hosted by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and social development.
Coalition Nationale pour l’Abandon du Mariage d’Enfants (CONAMEB), Burkina Faso
Bénédicte est membre du Réseau des Jeunes Activistes Engagés Pour l'Abandon du Mariage d'Enfants (JAPAME), émanation de la Coalition Nationale Contre le Mariage d'Enfants CONAMEB, soutenue par Girls Not Brides dans le cadre du projet Education à Voix Haute. Membre de l'Alliance des Féministes 2.0, une nouvelle dynamique qui regroupe 20 jeunes féministes du Burkina Faso pour promouvoir les droits des filles et des femmes à travers les espaces numériques. Membre du Réseau des Jeunes Ambassadeurs de la Santé de la Reproduction et de la Planification Familiale. Point focal de la Facilité Globale de Financement au Burkina Faso pour le Réseau des Plateformes nationales d'ONG d'Afrique de l'Ouest (REPAOC).
Equitable Health Access Initiative, Nigeria
Dorinda Odonghanro is a graduate of Microbiology from Bingham University and a Masters degree holder in Public Health from Lead City University both in Nigeria. She is a first responder for Sexual and Gender Based Violence with Nigerian Non-governmental Organization Equitable Health Access Initiative. She is also a Gender Advocate for the gender-transformative journey in Nigeria under the Girls Not Brides and has been collaborating with and supporting the National Coalition on Ending Child Marriage in Nigeria. She is the founder of the 'I Am A Girl Not Bride Club' in two secondary schools in Nigeria. She is also a member of the Lagal Network of SRHR in Nigeria. She was born and brought up in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria.
Girl Up Mexico
Luisa is a proud graduate from Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, holding a degree in International Relations. As a student, she co-founded the first Girl Up campus club in Mexico, Girl Up Políticas UANL, with the objective of opening safe spaces within the faculty to discuss issues such as feminism, SRHR, violence against girls and women and other topics. After graduating, she joined Girl Up Mexico as programme and impact coordinator.
Matina Ebri Okpo
African Girls Empowerment (AGE) Network, Nigeria
Matina Ebri is a gender advocate and the Administrator for the African Girls Empowerment Network (AGE Network), a registered young feminine frontline civil society organization that advances the human rights of young women and girls. She is also the Coordinator of STEM Girls Initiative, a movement for gender equality in girls' STEM education and careers. Matina is passionate about adolescent and youth sexual & reproductive health & rights and she is committed to building girls’ agency, skills, bodily rights & autonomy to end child marriage, unplanned teenage pregnancies, and unsafe abortions and ensuring that girls are able to exercise their rights including the rights to participate in STEM education, careers and leadership.
In her role as the administrator, Matina has facilitated and led several gender transformative programming’s in Nigeria that geared at building girls agency, securing adolescent girls sexual health & rights, Girls’ education particularly in STEM, Girls leadership and girls with disability inclusion and child marriage prevention among others.
Resources, tools and information for young activists, member organisations, civil society actors and donors to support and promote meaningful inclusion of youth in the collective efforts of the Partnership to end child marriage.
At Girls Not Brides we want to see local and national governments, regional bodies, and global institutions direct money and resources towards ending child marriage. We advocate for child marriage laws, policies and programmes that empower girls and their communities. We want them to be well-financed, comprehensive, and multi-sectoral.