Thursday, February 13, 2014

The UN Recognizes the Power of Young Women and Girls!

Today in New York City, UN Women and the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth held an event “Young Women and Girls: Leaders of Today for a Better Tomorrow.”  Panelists included Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, H.E. Ms. Bénédicte Frankinet, Permanent Representative of Belgium, H.E. Mr. Masood Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan, Ms. Stacy Martinet, Chief Marketing Officer, Mashable, Ms. Chapa Pereira, Youth Delegate from Sri Lanka, and Ms. Ralien Bekkers, Youth Delegate from the Netherlands, and Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth.  You can watch a recording of the event or join the conversation on Twitter by following #FutureYW.  I am grateful that today UN entities honored the power of young women and girls!

Now is a special opportunity for young women and girls to share their voices in creating the international development agenda.  The world community is about to launch a global dialogue on the Post-2015 development agenda about what's next after the Millennium Development Goals.  Additionally, 2015 marks the anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, a turning point for the women's human rights movement.  Recently at an African Union Summit in January, young women and girls presented a statement about their vision for the future of Africa.  The UN is only beginning to witness the influence of young women and girls!

I was very happy to see that young women and girls from both developed and developing countries were given the chance to share their voice as panelists.  Ralien Bekkers, Dutch Youth Representative on Sustainable Development, stressed the importance of including girls' voices in the dialogue in real time.  Chapa Perera, UN Youth Delegate from Sri Lanka emphasized that the starting point for addressing the challenges of women and girls is for these girls to empower themselves.  These ladies were brilliant and inspiring!

Key takeaways from the discussion
  • We need to change gender stereotypes and the portrayal of women and girls in the media.
  • Men, boys, and girls' parents need to be involved and educated about the value of girls' empowerment.
  • Young women and girls need to have access to technology to gain an education and share their voice.
  • In addition to formal education, informal education programs need to be created to train young women and girls to achieve their leadership potential. (Elect Her and the Young Women's Political Leadership Program are my favorite examples of such trainings.)
  • Governments need to prioritize young women and girls in terms of funding, policies, and laws.
  • Violence against women and girls and limited reproductive rights continue to be barriers to the advancement of young women and girls.
  • Through building their own confidence, young women and girls can be active agents of change.  They do not need to wait to be empowered by others.
Check out these opportunities to get involved