Over two decades ago in 1995, 189 countries agreed to achieve gender equality by creating the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a roadmap for creating a world where women and girls have equal rights.
Now, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF), will attempt to drive financial and political commitments and call for urgent action to make the promises outlined in the document a reality.
Convened by the UN Women, the United Nations’ organization dedicated to empowering women, and co-chaired by France and Mexico in partnership with youth and civil society, the forum kicked off in Mexico City on March 29 through March 31 and will culminate in Paris from June 30 through July 2. The second half of the gathering for gender equality will continue to drive urgent action and accountability on the most pressing issues impacting women and girls.
The Generation Equality Youth Task Force helped design and co-create the GEF to ensure that young people are involved in the full process of the event and campaign. The group of activists and advocates is dedicated to guaranteeing that young people are prioritized in plans to carry out the Beijing 25+ agenda.
Global Citizen spoke to five members of the Generation Equality Forum Youth Task Force about what they hope to bring to the GEF, the gender equality issues they care about most, and how they would like to see young people stand up to achieve gender equality in our lifetime. Read their full responses below.
Selin Ozunaldim. Courtesy of Selin Ozunaldim.
National Gender Youth Activist, Turkey
“As a young activist and adolescent girl myself, I have the impression that there is a clear lack of understanding and knowledge of what an applied intersectional approach means and often observe it to be used synonymously with diversity. I recognize the lack of an intersectional approach, including a decolonial approach, as part of the invisible power that is being exercised.
I am most passionate about technology and innovation for gender equality because technology provides vital access to information, services, social connection, and life-changing opportunities such as education and employment. Over 90% of jobs worldwide have a digital component. Technology is [also] primarily designed for, and created by men and does not reflect the interests of adolescent girls. Only 6% of global app developers are female. There is a huge lack of diversity.
Speak up, make some noise, and demand! To all the activists: Make it clear that you are there to amplify your own voice! Ensuring young people are given space to express opinions and make decisions that are meaningful and to give space for actively contributing and shaping the agenda is crucial because when young people promise, young people deliver.”
Kehkashan Basu. Courtesy of Kehkashan Basu
Climate Activist; Founder and President, Green Hope Foundation; Youth Leader Action Coalition; Canada
“I started working at a grassroots level when I was 7 years old. I am 20 now and already have 13 years [of] experience in diverse settings — from deeply vulnerable rural communities to being an active youth voice at the highest levels of decision-making [in]various UN processes. Despite my young age, I bring extensive and diverse work experience to the table. Most of my work has also been with communities who have remained invisible and I continue to be vocal about mitigating the challenges that they face.
I am deeply passionate about the [GEF] theme of Feminist Action for Climate Justice The reason is again rooted in my lived experiences of working with women and girls in marginalized communities [for] whom the impacts of climate change are disproportionately severe. A lack of disaggregated gender data is one of the prime causes that prevent the framing and implementation of effective mitigation actions. The empowerment of young women and girls is critical to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and this is possible only if they have access to an equitable education that will provide them with the skills and knowledge to know their rights and chart out their own future.”
Doreen Mora. Courtesy of Doreen Mora
HIV/AIDS Advocate, Kenya, Youth Task Force
“I hope to bring the perspective of women and girls living with HIV to the GEF. It has been40 years since the first HIV case was reported and women and girls are still highly affected, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The inequality in access to health care services and the ability to give birth to HIV-negative children from women living with HIV is a promise that has yet to be fully achieved, especially in my country Kenya where the percentage of mother-to-child infection stands at 10.9%.
I’m passionate [about] championing comprehensive sexuality education in and out of schools and I advocate for the increase of quality and access of sexual reproductive health services. I envision a society where we break the issues around gender norms by including the knowledge of rights for women and girls in all of their diversity.
I would like to see young people stand and uphold the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by making sure their voices count. Young people have been involved in different spaces ahead of the GEF, and this is the time they [can] speak, be heard, and champion the issues they are passionate about to world leaders and policymakers by making them commit and be accountable in order to achieve gender equality in our lifetime.”
Sylvain Obedi. Courtesy of Sylvain Obedi
Disabilities Activist; Country Coordinator, Enable the Disable Action; DRC; Youth Task Force
“The GEF is super important because it is a unique opportunity that gives voice to all categories of people without any discrimination. I joined the Youth Task Force because I believe that young people have experiences to share and should be included — their energies are crucial.
My activism is centered [around]inclusion and diversity. I believe that every human being is endowed with a talent and needs to be given equal access to opportunities and special attention promoting their engagement in their community and being the trigger for positive change.
I would like to see leaders commit to making inclusion a reality, fighting social inequalities, and considering diversity as a richness, a plus in human capital development, and essential in social cohesion.
We must no longer continue to think that change is up to world leaders alone. You can also act to equalize for an equal world by committing now to promote good practices and champion gender equality.”
Julieta Martinez. Courtesy of Julieta Martinez
Founder of Colectivo Tremendas, Chile; Youth Task Force
“I want to bring the strength of collaboration among Latin American girls from an intersectional, intercultural, and inclusive perspective to the GEF. We are one voice in the struggle for social justice.
The action coalition that I am most passionate about is "Feminist Action for Climate Justice" because in the fight against the climate crisis, women and girls have a fundamental role at the advocacy and decision-making table. It is crucial to see girls' education as a climate solution, giving them access to quality education systems about their sexual and reproductive rights, the circular economy, and climate resilience.
I hope to see youth at the center of the conversations — advocating and deciding, raising their voices and taking action for the urgent changes needed to achieve a sustainable and equal future. [I hope to see] intergenerational and intersectional dialogues where all sectors of the population are truly represented and involved.”
Editor's note: These responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.