By Vanessa Anyoti, YWCA of Tanzania, Programmes Associate World YWCA
“We call upon UN Agencies, Governments, Civil Society and the Private Sector to provide financial support for Women, Young Women and Girls and programs; and create safe spaces for the engagement and participation of young women and girls in the design, delivery and evaluation of programs and services targeting young women and girls.” Recommendation from African Regional Review of the 20 Years Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, Young Women’s Caucus
When it comes to young women’s active participation in decision making processes, be it at the national, regional or global level, funds or the lack of funds for young women’s participation is often a deciding factor. It is highly unfortunate that even after fighting for young women’s inclusion in such spaces, we cannot actively participate because we do not have the funds and/or the opportunity to do so.
We have all heard it said a couple of times, by people both young and old, passionately and often redundantly, ‘We need to include youth voices’, ‘where are the youth when we make such decisions concerning them?’ and ‘how can we get more youth involved and at the decision making table?’ And while I wholeheartedly agree, I know that we need to go beyond these words. We need to call for and promote the creation, and full implementation, of concrete and inclusive strategies and action plans that will allow for young women’s active participation in all matters affecting their lives be it water availability, access to health services, peace building and the like. What am I completely against? Tokenism.
Tokenism; the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.
Not only do young women want to participate, we want active participation, and not mere tokenism. Our cry is for us to NOT be viewed through the lenses of tomorrow; tomorrows leaders, healers, decision makers, lawyers, teachers, women, mothers, etc. View us as equal and able body entities today, who can contribute to achieving development.
Figure 1 CSW59 Young Women’s Forum – Copy write World YWCA
So as young women, both eager to contribute to development and empowered with the skills to adequately promote change, what can we do in the process? It is important for young women and girls to be our own voices. Speak for young women and girls whenever you have a chance, use your circles, national and global, physical and virtual to raise these important issues and point out young women and girl’s roles in the solution. I have come to believe that we cannot ignore the global aspect of our lives. We are all interconnected, our problems are interconnected. So young women and girls focus on what’s happening in your communities but also be aware of what’s happening globally. What’s been spoken about in our Parliaments and the corridors of the UN.
To the UN, Regional Bodies, Governments and Government Institutions, Civil Society Organisations, the Private Sector, it is clear to us that, financing determines priorities. Would you make us your priority? I would like to reiterate that funds for women’s programs and active participation will enable women, young women and girls (organisations and individuals) to advocate, teach, inform and guide other young women and girls so as to participate in these processes. Take a problem and analyse who is most affected, and young women and girls are at the top of the list. We thus, would not only like to change this and make young women and girls part of the solution.
I guess at the end of the day, I would urge all stakeholders involved, to put your money where your mouth is.