March not only signifies Women’s History Month but also the UN’s two-week-long Commission on the Status of Women. This marks the 60th commission, and priorities are ambitious with a focus on women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development. UN Women partnered up with YWCA and the UN Inter-agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality to conduct the first ever Youth Forum.
But why should we care?
Youth (between ages 10 and 24) make up 1.8 billion of the Earth’s population. They are the future–and the present. And they will be the most impacted by the leadership of our current decision-makers, both on the local and global scale.
Last week, 300 youth representatives from around the world – both young men and women – convened to discuss the very topics discussed at the CSW60. The forum itself signified a push by the UN for a more inclusive and holistic approach to providing youth with a platform to be heard. Case in point, the youth forum produced the first-ever Youth CSW Declaration.
The kids got it right, of course. Not only does the declaration centralize women’s empowerment, but it acknowledges that women around the world are unable to reach their full potential because of outside factors. Thus, the declaration comes packed with forward-thinking recommendations, tackling gender equality, climate change, sexual/reproductive health and rights, and HIV/AIDS.
Today’s young people eagerly acknowledge that women’s empowerment and reproduction rights and protections are linked. Their recommendations include:
“Repeal and reform all discriminatory laws and provisions, including laws that criminalize drug use, sex work, HIV transmission, abortion, and diverse sexual or gender identities, and remove legal barriers to ensure that youth in all their diversities are able to access SRHR, including repealing the age of consent and parental consent laws.”
Goal 3— to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for people of all ages–means safeguarding women’s ownership over our reproductive health decisions. Little to no access as well as a lack of systemic support impedes empowerment for everyone but particularly for women and girls.
UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka puts it best: “This is a defining moment when women and youth make an alliance… with the potential to change the world.”
We could not agree more.