Today, 12th August, is International Youth Day! On this day, every year, the world comes together to celebrate the opportunities and achievements of youth all over the world. This year’s theme is Safe Spaces for Youth (#SafeSpaces4Youth).
Youth need to have safe spaces where they can come together, participate in decision-making processes and be empowered to be part of change.
As the largest generation ever, with over 230 million people aged 15-24, Africa’s youth are collectively speaking out and raising their voices. The rise of youth activism in recent years has shown to be a powerful and effective tool in bringing about lasting change. More and more young people are rightfully demanding to be included in decision-making processes and participate in discussions on issues that impact them.
We caught up with some of The Girl Generation’s Programme Officers across Africa and found out their thoughts on youth’s role to end female genital mutilation (FGM):
Why is it important to involve youth to end FGM?
Musu Bakoto Sawo, The Girl Generation Programme Officer in The Gambia: "It is important to involve youth to end FGM because only youth can change the narrative of the trend of FGM."
Kelechukwu Lucky Nwachukwu, The Girl Generation Program Officer in Nigeria: "Young people are the heart and soul of the movement to end FGM. They are the ones most affected. Very importantly, we see that in many countries and contexts, the youth are the ones championing the end FGM movement, they are the ones holding government to account, creating the buzz, spreading the word etc. We cannot afford but bring them on board and engage them effectively."
How do you think young people can best be supported and empowered to end FGM?
Musu Bakoto Sawo: "By equipping them with advocacy skills to continue the FGM campaign and making resources available to them for meaningful impact."
Esmael Omar, The Girl Generation Programme Officer in Kenya: "There are infinite possibilities when young people have safe spaces to make critical decisions on issues that affect them."
Kelechukwu Lucky Nwachukwu: "Safe spaces and sustainable platforms have to be created for young people. It is time we put a stop to tokenism, we need to stop seeing young people as part of programmatic check lists or even trophies. Young people need to be effectively carried along, given spaces where their voices can be heard loud and clear! Again, they need resources to materialise their amazing ideas and innovation."
What advice do you have for young people working to end FGM?
Abdifatah Kasin, The Girl Generation Programme Officer in Somaliland: “Young people should be active to fight against everything that can harm their rights.”
Musu Bakoto Sawo: "Never underestimate the important work that you are doing to end FGM. As little as it may seem, you are impacting positively on a girl's life. Keep going! The journey may be tough but don't give up! You will overcome the obstacles you may find along the way.”
Kelechukwu Lucky Nwachukwu: "Do not jitter, do not succumb, be bold and courageous. Don’t feel alone as there are millions of us, we will continue to shout on top of our voices...we ask for the end to FGM!"
This year’s International Youth Day theme is Safe Spaces for Youth, how can we create safe spaces/platforms for youth to discuss FGM?
Kelechukwu Lucky Nwachukwu: “Strengthen youth movements, create opportunities for young people, bring us to the board room not because you need to achieve a “quota” but because we have a lot to bring to the table. We should not be seen beyond mere 'tea pourers' and be seen more as strategic stakeholders.”
Musu Bakoto Sawo: "We can create safe spaces by allowing young people to lead initiatives and to use their context to end FGM instead of replicating initiatives that may not work in their context."
Steps towards ending FGM by the youth
In early April of this year, The Girl Generation hosted the first Pan-African Youth Summit to end FGM. The Summit brought together young people from all across Africa and the diaspora, and placed them at the centre of the end FGM movement to catalyse their collective action, reach and influence. Over the course of the two days, youth were given the platform to openly discuss FGM and to share their stories working to end FGM.
Harnessing the excitement that surrounded the Summit, the young Africans launched the I will end FGM campaign to end FGM on July 23rd 2018, sparking one million conversations to break the silence that allows the practice to continue.
The young African advocates have been posting videos on social media to speak out against FGM and are inspiring others to show their support by also making a pledge to end FGM. The videos seek to break the silence that surrounds the issue. Check out their commitments here.
The need to create safe spaces for youth to discuss FGM and engage in issues that impact them is a running theme throughout commitments: