Round table discussions of the World Conference on Youth (WCY) 2014, yesterday (May 8) focused on gender. It was the second day of the discussions held at Bandaranaike International Memorial Conference Hall (BMICH).
The main topics discussed during this session included the lack of systematic dealing of gender based violence, the insufficient involvement of men and boys in bringing about gender equality, and the importance of education.
Mr. Samuel Kissi from Curious Minds, Ghana (Youth Coalition), spoke about how gender inequality is an issue that has to be addressed and how it is central to sustainable development as women contribute to various issues such as the economy, education and health. He stressed upon how important it is to have an appropriate framework for gender equality and women’s empowerment at all levels, and the importance of including everyone, especially marginalized people. He urged youth to take a comprehensive look at all consequences, for example, health and poverty.
Dhanashri Brahme, Program Specialist on Gender at the U.N. Population Fund Activities (UNFPA), India, spoke about how the interdependence and interrelatedness of different rights are not recognized. Going on to elaborate, she spoke about how although gender roles exist in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there is still limited progress for women and girls, and that goals don’t address discriminatory structures that underpin and perpetuate gender inequality. She also highlighted that MDG targets have masked sub-national differences, therefore gender inequalities are compounded by other inequalities.
She stressed upon the need to push for inclusion, and recognize restricting roles played by norm-based social hierarchies, attitudes and behaviors. Adding to Samuel Kissi’s statement of women being central to sustainable development, she pointed out that if 220,000 adolescent mothers in Kenya had the choice of being employed instead of falling pregnant, it would add $3.4 billion to Kenya’s gross income.
In Addition, Ms. Brahme spoke strongly about the role of education, especially when it comes to adolescent girls. She also pointed out how gender equality is not an issue of women and girls alone, but also requires the involvement of all stakeholders involved.
Ms. Upeksha Swarnamali, Sri Lankan Member of Parliament, spoke about the importance of safeguarding cherished family values and passing them on to the next generation. She spoke about how there is a significant number of single-parent families and how the majority of children from single-parent families are not adequately taught certain key values and principles.
“There has to be a mechanism in place where parents realize what their priorities are,” Ms. Swarnamali said, going on to state that in families where both parents work, the children are neglected, and proper values are not properly inculcated in them. She also elaborated on how men are also subject to abuse all over the world and that they need to be a part of the process of bringing about gender equality.
The event was live streamed and those unable to attend had the ability to voice their concerns via Twitter.
Through all the discussions that ensued, it was determined that more needs to be invested in educating women.
The second round table discussions held yesterday also focused on “Inclusive Youth Participation at All Levels”.
U.N. Volunteers Program Officer Mr. Narendra Mishra spoke about a global thematic consultation on post-2015 and governance. He said that youth concerns are critical for post 2015. Young people must be involved in design and ownership a new draft agenda. Mr. Mishra added that youth should be involved in policy shifts towards a green technology and environmentally efficient modes of increasing employment innovation and shared wealth creation.
“Full accountability comes only when people participate,” Mr. Mishra said, going further to say that the 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) review placed emphasis on voice, accountability and the full participation of all segments of society in the decision-making process.
Meanwhile, Founder and President of the Youth Advocacy Group Mr. Luiz Carlos, in his comments at the session spoke about “real participation.”
“It’s unbelievable that today, when young people are 1/3rd of the population, we still have to discuss about participation,” Mr. Carlos said.
The youth cannot have a limited voice and limited space, he continued. They need the freedom to speak and need to be listened to; but participation is not only speaking or being listened to. He also mentioned that most companies and politicians state that they care about youth participation thus have made consultation available and asked young people to tweet about something; but consultation is not participation. It’s a tool for participation – participation goes far beyond consultation. They can’t ask young people what we think and then take the decisions by themselves, Mr. Carlos expressed. Real participation is a whole process from planning and taking the decisions, to implementing and evaluating it.
Mr. Carlos concluded his statement by stating, “It’s actually a privilege being here. We have to engage people that have no access to technology, people who can’t speak English or any other U.N. major language. I know it’s hard. I know it demands money, people, time, commitment. But it’s needed.