WGG Girls Address Youth Forum

Editorial By: Disha Banerjee Bhattacharya, WGG Intern Summer 2014

AnCrisAmLizEmJulDishAt the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s Forum on Youth from 2nd-3rd June 2014, UN Women held a side event titled Beijing+20: WHAT? An interactive dialogue with young people about gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 context. UN Women invited young women and girls to be panelists and participate in a dialogue with Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, ECOSOC President, H.E. Martin Sajdik and Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi.

The discussion between the panelists and the three senior UN officials centered on the twelve critical areas covered by the Beijing Platform for Action, namely, poverty; education and training; health; violence against women; armed conflict; the economy; power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms; humans rights of women; the media; the environment; and the girl-child.

ChrisLizJulAnitFive of WGG’s Girl Advocates, Julia, Christina, Lizzy, Anita and Ameesha, were panelists along with Johanna from the Austrian Youth Council, Tiffany from the YMCA, and Emily from the Girl Scouts.

  • Julia addressed the issue of girls and women as entrepreneurs and innovators and the importance of girls’ and women’s participation in conversations on climate change.
  • Christina discussed the necessity of girls and women in leadership and decision-making roles – as outlined by the Beijing Platform for Action – and the impact that had on her future and the futures of girls around the world.
  • Lizzy explained what gender equality meant to her, why it mattered to her and her peers and her experiences in conversing with young boys on the issue of gender equality.
  • Anita spoke to the merits of and fundamental importance of the Beijing Platform for Action as a means of achieving gender equality and a sustainable future for both women and men alike.
  • Johanna outlined her vision for how education could and should help girls and boys alike to understand and achieve gender equality.
  • Tiffany highlighted how violence against girls and women continues to be a global pandemic and stated that for gender equality to even begin to be realized, it is of utmost importance that this egregious violation of human rights be wholly and completely eliminated.
  • Emily discussed the importance of girl’s and women’s participation in forming, implementing and monitoring environmental policies and the effect environmental issues have on girls and women.
  • Ameesha shared with us her thoughts on the future of girls and women and the importance of ending all forms of discrimination and violence against them so that she and her peers may, in their lifetime, live in a world that is equitable and equal for all.

The event concluded with Ms. Mlambo-Ngucka, Mr. Sajdik and Mr. Alhendawi responding to the comments made by the panelists and by reaffirming and reiterating their commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action and highlighting the importance of having girls as leaders and facilitators of change in the Post-2015 development context.

ECOSOC Youth Forum: Review of June 2 -3 Event

Editorial By: Disha Banerjee Bhattacharya, WGG Intern Summer 2014

CrisLiz ECOSOC YouthThe United Nations Economic and Social Council held a Forum on Youth from 2nd-3rd June 2014. The forum was titled, “#Youth 2015: Realizing the Future They Want” and was held in the ECOSOC chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The purpose of the forum was to provide a space for youth to voice their concerns about and opinions on the Post-2015 Development Agenda so as to be able to influence the agenda to accommodate a more comprehensive set of goals aimed at improving the situation of youth around the globe and facilitating greater youth participation in the polities, economies and public spheres of the world.

The forum opened with remarks from H.E. Mr. Martin Sajdik (President of the ECOSOC), H.E. MR. Ban Ki-moon (Secretary General of the United Nations), H.E. John W. Ashe (President of the 68th session of the General Assembly), Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi (United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth). The keynote addresses were made by Ms. Brittany Trilford (Activist and Youth Advisor at CIVICUS Alliance) and Mr. Nik Hartley (CEO, Restless Development). The speakers all emphasized the importance of the youth as political actors for change and encouraged their involvement in their communities and in global forums as individual actors and as a collective bargaining body. The speakers also talked at length about including the youth in the formation of the Post 2015 Development Agenda.

UNW Mlambo-Ngcuka. Brautigam.EnvoyAlhendawiH.E. Mr. Dullas Alahapperuma (Minister for Youth Affairs and Skills Development, Sri Lanka), Mr. Gabriel Laurence-Brook (Spokesperson of the Francophone Youth Parliament), and Mr. Alejo Ramírez (Secretary-General, Ibero-American Youth Organization) reported on the levels of youth participation in governmental processes and in civil society in their respective countries and regions – Sri Lanka, Africa and Latin America. They then facilitated dialogue amongst the youth and themselves on the areas that most affect and concern the youth.

Youth employment and entrepreneurship, education, health, governance and participation, and peace-building and stability emerged as the main areas of concern and were then discussed in-depth by the youth delegates in Break Out Sessions with a number of high level UN and state officials.

The Break Out Sessions provided the United Nations and its member states with a set of concrete ideas on the rights and responsibilities of the youth – from the perspective of the youth delegates – with regard to the aforementioned areas. One of the ideas suggested that gathered unanimous support from the youth delegates was the formation and implementation of development indicators for the youth in regards to progress made in the areas of youth employment and entrepreneurship, education, health, governance and participation, and peace-building and stability. The delegates demanded these indicators be established by the youth and then implemented and monitored by the youth in a formal capacity.

The forum concluded with a presentation of the consolidated document and reflections on the tasks and targets set to ensure youth issues are concretely reflected in all aspects of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Annual Report: FY 2013-2014

AnCrisAmLizEmJulDishThe Working Group on Girls had an incredible year! Thanks to our Task Forces: Advocacy, Communications, CSW 58 Logistics, Development Committee, Girls Against Violence, Girls Participation, Girls Against Violence, Post-2015 and our membership – the girls’ rights agenda continues to gain momentum and visibility at the United Nations.

The WGG remains committed to elevating the status and rights of girls’ worldwide.  Toward that end, we proudly share the following presentation, which highlights some of our key activities and initiatives for FY 2013-2014.

Beijing+20 and the Importance of Partnerships with Girls

ChristinaWGG Girl Advocate, Christina was invited to speak on “Beijing + 20 and Partnerships” at the May membership meeting of the NGO CSW.  The panel, moderated by Beth Adamson of the WGG included:  Rosemary Lane:  Senior Social Affairs officer at DESA, Focal Point on Aging, who discussed the importantance of hearing the voices of women of all ages,  Julien Pellaux:  representing UN Women’s new  “He for She” campaign, who encouraged the involvement of men and boys working equally with girls and women for gender equity, and Christina who discussed the importance of girls’ participation and advocacy on issues central to girls’ everyday lives.

Christina shared the following with the attendees:

“At every single WGG meeting I attend, I am working with women of all ages – with different experiences and thought patterns. This sisterhood is so dear to me and I have benefitted immensely from the wisdom, support, and kindness all of these women have given me. We also discover commonalities and new perspectives. This enhances our organization and our initiatives because we are all putting our heads together to create solutions that are dynamic and work for everyone.

I applied to be a Girl Advocate because I wanted to learn more about the fight for gender equality – and to be able to feel like I was doing my small part for the cause. Not only were the rights of myself and girls around the world at the center of every discussion, but also I was encouraged to understand them and speak about my own experiences throughout girlhood. WGG showed me that I am the real expert on my own rights and therefore should be able to champion them. WGG supports girls by giving them a platform to advocate for themselves – not just at the United Nations but also in their everyday lives. If girls are empowered in one aspect of their lives, they are able to carry this attitude into other spaces.

Often young people, especially girls, can feel powerless and like they aren’t taken seriously because they haven’t even entered college yet, or maybe even high school. This is why it is so vital to work with girls under 18 – so they can strengthen their voices and build self-confidence. My work with WGG has not only expanded my understanding of the world and my potential as a girl – but has also given me the courage to enter any meeting, panel, or room and speak my mind.

For me, showing girls how to use their voices effectively and encouraging them to do so is the only way to sincerely partner with youth. Adults are integral to the success of youth, who may have ideas about how to change the world but may also feel that they don’t have the platform to implement them. Adults – you- can create this platform, simply by engaging youth in meaningful discussion and treating them like actual human beings – not just children.

However, I also think about the Fourth World Women’s Conference in Beijing when identifying potential for partnership. Even though I wasn’t born until the next year, this conference influences my life today as a girl and as I approach womanhood. Not just because my grandmother was there and tells me many stories of the strong, incredible women of courage she met. Because while her stories are great, “Beijing” was not just about what happened in 1995.

BQ6xpZQCAAIsW4l.jpg-largeThe Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were not simply promises to achieve gender equality but also roadmaps for how we can make those promises a reality. They allow us, today, to have a central human rights-based agenda on the lives of females -that we can continue to add to – that I can to add to. My generation can honor the work of the women who attended Beijing, by making sure the goals are achieved – by making sure that gender equality is our reality. In order to do this, we must learn from you. We must learn how to be leaders from you. We need to close the gap between girls and women because we are all stronger when we stand together.

But we can’t talk about effective partnerships without discussing the key role that the other half of the population plays in women’s and girls’ rights – men and boys. This is an area where we still have a lot of work to do. Each year at the Commission on Status of Women I meet and listen to wonderful and inspiring women with infectious passion but little to no men. This is a problem. Feminism has commonly been misunderstood as a woman’s movement – a plan for women to upend men. Real feminism is the idea that men and women should work together as equal partners in every sector of society. In order to do this, we must reach an understanding, which can happen through dialogue and once again meaningful discussion.

At the Teen Orientation for CSW 57, I witnessed Michael Kaufman do just that. There is something so powerful about a man who exposes the ridiculous pressure we put on both sexes and how this leads to our culture of hyper sexualizing and exploiting women and girls. He holds men accountable for the violence they perpetrate but also tries to understand why a man would even hit a woman in the first place. He has insight and ideas that a female could never conjure up. I will never know what it is like to be a man – attempting to assert my masculinity and authority. But a boy will never know what it is like to be a girl who is abused, ignored, looked down upon, and violated.  There is power in recognizing this – recognizing that we can no longer label gender equality as simply a woman’s issue.

Once again, the celebration of Beijing +20 allows for so much collaboration between men and women. Their roles in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action are different but necessary. We need men to be advocates for women – to instill in boys a culture of respect, not a culture of male-domination. Because it is only this way that we can create a world of shared, mutual respect between men and women and the only way we can uphold the true meaning of feminism.” 

Global Vote Day: May 8th!

image002To date, over 2 million people have told the UN about the world they want to see. These voices matter. The UN is working with governments everywhere to define the next global agenda to address extreme poverty and preserve the planet. The data from the MY World votes and World We Want platform continues to be used by decision makers and to inform various intergovernmental processes at the UN. Additionally, the data has been presented at the World Economic Forum, TedX events, SXSW, +Social Good, World Conference on Youth, and the African Union Summit, among others.

The MY World Global Week of Action (5-11 May) is a worldwide mobilization effort to gather an additional 500,000 MY World votes – specifically leading up to a Global Vote Day (8 May).  The results from this voting drive will be presented at the PlusSocialGood event on 13 May: “You + Global Leaders + SocialGood” and at the World We Want Policy Strategy Group event on 16 May: “Visualizing People’s Voices: Data by People for People”.

image003Want to get involved? Here is how:

Step 1: Tweet it out: Share the information below with your friends and followers

  • Vote today for a better world. Have your say at the @UN #globalvote http://thndr.it/1ieIhgK
  •  This week, tell your friends to do something amazing. Vote @UN #globalvote. myworld2015.org
  • “It always seems impossible, until it’s done”—Mandela. Vote for the world you want #globalvote myworld2015.org
  • Tell the @UN the world you want.  Join the #globalvote for a better world myworld2015.org

Step 2: VOTE Take the  MY World survey and be sure that your VOICE is heard.