GIMAC pre-summit consultative meeting
Written by Rophina Kerre
The African youth advocacy training and the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign meeting I participated in Ethiopia was enlightening as I gained a true perspective of the issues that girls face and extensive knowledge on how we as the youth can help those in need. I was also able to network and share ideas with young people from different countries about the rights of girls and the opportunities available for them in our respective countries.
Through the training I got to learn about the many Pan African organizations that were fully dedicated to amplifying the youth voices so as to ensure their issues are heard and the necessary steps are put in place to deal with their issues. They gave us a brief introduction on what they did by highlighting what they had actually done to advance girl’s rights in their countries. Most of the organizations present for the advocacy training and the gender is my agenda campaign pre-summit consultative meeting on gender mainstreaming were very eager to work with other organizations to ensure that there is adequate space for the youth at the AU.
We had in depth deliberations on child marriage, education and sexual reproductive health and the issues in our countries, possible solutions to the issues and identifying the gaps in what has been done to deal with the issues or what could have been possibly done to deal with the issues. I took a keen interest on child marriage issues and sexual reproductive health since WREPA focuses on building safe spaces for the youth to enable them to reach their full potential.
Some of the key drives to child marriages were gender inequality whereby in many communities’ girls are not valued as much as boys- they are considered burdens by their families. Marrying your daughters at a young age can be viewed as way to ease economic hardships. Child marriage is also driven by patriarchal values and the desire to control female sexuality, for instance, how a girl should behave, how she should dress, who she should be allowed to see, to marry, etc. Culture and tradition also contributes to child marriages in that in some communities when a girl starts to menstruate, they are viewed as women in the eyes of the community, Marriage is therefore the next step for the girl.
During the second day, I attended the gender is my agenda campaign meeting which was held at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The Gender Is My Agenda Campaign aims to create a space for civil society to monitor the implementation of Solemn Declaration of Gender Equality in Africa. The summit also creates a platform for the youth to engage in dialogue with delegates and civil society members on gender based issues.
On the final day of the summit Maria Safari, a fellow volunteer of WREPA KENYA, had the opportunity to present on creating economic opportunities for rural and disadvantaged girls and young women. Maria presented a detailed study on the impacts of Early and Forced child marriages on young women in Busia and Kilifi district of Kenya.
The African youth advocacy training and Gender Is My Agenda Campaign meeting was a phenomenal experience for WREPA to advocate for the rights and opportunities of young girls at the global level.