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Story and Perspective

After the Generation Equality Forum, Where Do Next Gen Go From Here?

Anna Boyer and Shaylyn Stanley

Julietta Martinez, representative on the Generation Equality Youth Task Force, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, former US Secretary of State, during the forum’s Opening Ceremony.

As the next generation of CEOs, politicians, and development leaders, we find ourselves asking how we can learn more about the issue areas that affect us. How can we start making the change we want to see? How can we share our input when we’re not yet in these leading positions or at the decision-making table?

Through Pathfinder International, passionate Next Gen can join Pathfinder’s Acacia Circle to learn more about and advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and global development. As members of the Acacia Circle, we attended the Generation Equality Forum earlier this month hoping to hear more from global leaders on the issues we’re passionate about, what progress has been made to close gaps in gender equality, and how young people can get more meaningfully involved in developing solutions for the issues that affect us.

Throughout the event, we were heartened to hear of commitments made and goals supported, but also saw challenges and opportunities to ensure young people have more meaningful input in the future. As we ask “what’s next” we look back on these takeaways.

Clockwise from top left: Racha Haffar, Eunice Leyva García, Valeria Vásquez Vázquez, Sodfa Daaji in the youth-led session “Youth feminists speak up!”.

What left us inspired?

  • Platforms for youth. Throughout the forum, it was motivating to see young people taking the stage. Sessions like one hosted by SheDecides, a youth-focused global political movement, gave young feminist advocates a platform to have their voices heard and encouraged young people to be included in more high-level conversations going forward.
  • Breaking taboos around SRHR. SRHR is still stigmatized globally. Kazuko Fukada, a women’s SRHR activist from Japan, shared a story of a young female student who was shamed for scoring highly on her sexual education examinations because this suggested to her peers that she was “slutty” for knowing so much. Shame, lack of access to services, and stigmatization are some of the reasons women are unable to get the care and education they need, which is exactly what Pathfinder is working to change.
  • Commitment. The forum raised an impressive sum of $40 billion toward achieving gender equality, and the contributions were not only monetary; 440 civil society organizations and 94 youth-led groups made policy and program commitments. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, expressed a commitment to make sure resources are given to grassroots organizations and member states that lead programs to help women and girls.

Although the conversation did not focus on concrete next steps, it was motivating to see crossover between generations and receive motivation that while there is still so much more progress to be made, we have accomplished so much so far.”

Anna Boyer, Acacia Circle member

What gaps must be addressed to achieve real progress for gender equality?

  • Barriers to youth-led solutions.  Young people consistently spoke about the many challenges they face in implementing programs. Many youth-led organizations, for example, face barriers to accessing funding without the financial history or technical expertise required from many donors. These barriers must be dismantled for youth-led solutions to become reality moving forward.
  • Events that were thought-provoking, but did not inspire action. Throughout the forum, we were pleased to hear of commitments being made, but all sessions were simply high-level conversations. We left with little understanding about the steps we, as individuals, can take to drive solutions for gender equality.
  • Unclear systems of accountability. Not only do we want to know how we as young people can drive change, but we are also looking to others who have deep experience with solutions for equality to provide a framework for success. Without a clear plan, we will be in the same position we are now with no assurance of equality for future generations when commitment makers reach the end of their five-year timeline.
Kazuko Fukuda with Bience Gawanas, Former Under-Secretary-General, Special Advisor on Africa to the UN, discussing experiences of young people speaking about sexual and reproductive health.

As we move forward, we’re hopeful that all commitment makers—governments, young people, international organizations, and donors—who are collectively working to achieve gender equality do so with collaboration top of mind, no matter the age of those sharing inputs. We look forward to future convenings including more opportunities to not just listen to motivating conversations, but actually take part in conversations that result in actionable steps. Further, we look forward to hearing from Generation Equality Forum organizers about how we can hold each other and ourselves accountable to commitments made.

Until then, to learn more about how Next Gen are moving issues on global health forward with Pathfinder, sign up to receive updates and invites from Pathfinder’s Next Gen ambassadors.

Clockwise from top left: Molly Chan, Onuh Faith Evere, Vashti Rebong, and Sarbyen Sheni presenting in the session, “Young people, gender equality, and HIV.”

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