Brussels, Belgium. Giving young people opportunities to speak for themselves is key to the way The Girl Generation and FORWARD work. Our joint session “Investing in youth to end gender-based violence: Young African women as agents of change and development” (in partnership with Amref Health Africa and the End FGM European Network), was selected to be part of the 2017 European Development Days (EDD17) agenda and was an opportunity for four young women from Africa and the diaspora to share their journeys as change makers.
“I believe I am the best one to tell my story.”
21-year-old FORWARD Youth Advocate Angela paid tribute to her father and the role of men as key actors end violence against women and girls (VAWG). She shared with the audience how while creating spaces to discuss VAWG at her university in the UK, other students tried to silence her but she had the courage to engage in uncomfortable conversations and gained the support of her institution.
For Seleyian, The Girl Generation Kenyan Youth Ambassador, positive stories lead to positive change, and after completing her education in Nairobi, she moved back to her Maasai community, sharing her story not as a victim but as survivor, to win the hearts of young people to commit to ending FGM.
Meaningful youth inclusion was the message of Fatima who started her journey of activism at age 16 in a youth group supported by FORWARD. She went on to take part in the UK 2014 Girl Summit where global commitments were made to end child marriage and FGM and led to the co-foundation of Youth for Change, a multi-country youth-led programme to end VAWG. Now an ambassador for the End FGM European network, Fatima is a advocating for VAWG to be tackled at all levels by holding governments to the international conventions they have ratified and by supporting grassroots organisations with adequate funding.
Finally, Nice shared her journey of resilience and determination. From the age of eight, she challenged accepted social norms and was punished for it, but she persevered. Now with the support of Amref Health Africa, she is now using the good in Maasai tradition and culture to change what harms.
‘Davos for development’
Organised by the European Commission since 2006, the European Development Days bring together the international development community at Europe’s largest forum for international cooperation, and has been likened to the ‘Davos for development’. This is a key moment in the international development calendar. bringing together all the major actors.
Entitled “Investing in Development”, the 2017 edition of the EDD was the largest to date, with 8,000 participants over two days, 700 organisations represented, 120 events and numerous head of states, ministers, Nobel Prize laureates, UN and European institution officials all coming together. This year marked a milestone of European development cooperation: the launch of the New European Consensus for Development, the collective vision and plan of action for all EU Member States and Institutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Bringing local stories to a global audience
The Girl Generation and FORWARD were keen to amplify the work our members are doing to challenge harmful social norms such as FGM and child marriage. We also want to highlight the work being done to support those affected by violence and to protect future generations.
Images are powerful communication tools, which is why we chose the background mural of our stand to embody our vision for all African girls and women: strong, vibrant, healthy, empowered and leading change. Many EDD participants came to add to our vision and to share their good wishes to the African activists and organisations working for change at the grassroots.
We went to the European Development Days to share concrete examples of how investing in young people through grants, leadership training, mentoring and supporting them to take action is transforming the social norms and structures which underpin violence against women and girls in Africa and her diaspora. We have come back with messages of solidarity and support to the Africa-led movement to end FGM and to the organisations and activists working to end other forms of VAWG. One EDD17 participant wrote, “Your voice counts. We listen!” This is also our message to you: share your stories so that we can amplify them, join us so that together our voices are louder and we are heard.
Want to get involved? Here are a few things you can do:
- Listen to our EDD17 session podcast: eudevdays.eu/sessions/investing-youth-end-gender-based-violence
- Share your story
- Donate to FORWARD’s Child Mothers Campaign: www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/forwarduk/mcmc
- Join The Girl Generation: www.thegirlgeneration.org/become-member
- If you are UK-based, apply for the TuWezeshe fellowship