Girl Up Venezuela Founder & President Laura took the stage at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, an annual initiative of the President of the Council, as well as the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City. She calls for more diversity within those represented at the Generation Equality Forum to ensure full inclusivity in decision-making. She also notes that there weren’t enough opportunities for young peer delegates to ask hard questions and raise issues not always addressed at ECOSOC.
Generation Equality Forum
“It is with great regret that we announce the sad news of our failure to achieve the SDGs by 2030. We have learned our lesson, though: without gender equality, we cannot achieve any of the other SDGs.”
As we now have realized, gender equality plays a role in achieving any and all of the SGDs. But the problem is not merely realizing, but rather how and if we apply that lesson to our activism, personal, and professional agendas. It is in this particular task that we, the youth, excel at; we are known for using words alongside the implementation of actions, not one first and the other second, and it is therefore the reason why the UN and UN Women have created this opportunity (the Generation Equality Forum) to involve us in the discussions and planning of future actions.
That said, the Generation Equality Forum called to me as an opportunity for all of us youth to be heard, considered, and seen, and though that’s the selling point of this forum, I can’t help but notice there is still a lack of representation and diversity of backgrounds, voices, races, and even ways of thinking in these spaces.
From one meeting to another, I was able to listen to different dialogues with different topics, and they all agreed on a few points. First, there is intersectionality between the topics of discussion as gender-based violence affects the economic empowerment of women and the economic empowerment of women affect their participation in decision-making spaces and so on. Second, we cannot achieve any of the goals set by the Action Coalitions without collaboration and full inclusivity at all levels and spaces. Third, the youth play a key role in advancing this SDG and helping the stakeholders comply with their promises, in other words, holding them accountable. And albeit I love that we all agree on such important points, I feel there was so much more to say and consider, and that the lack of representation and diversity made it a challenge to have more fruitful and intersectional conclusions.
As a GEF Youth Activist, I would love to say we are ready for change and that all of the promises made will be accomplished sooner and better than planned, but I cannot deny that the neglection of lack of access to technology and of diversity in the discussions make me feel that there is still a milestone to achieve first: real and honest empathy for the circumstances we do not experience. But as a Girl Up leader, I do promise this to you: we won’t stop until all voices are well represented and equally valued. Until then, promise me you will be leading the change your communities need-we cannot wait for others to clean for the mess that is not laying in their bedrooms.
ECOSOC Youth Forum
As young people, all we want is to be seen as equal stakeholders and relevant changemakers. We want to be taken seriously and, as a proof of it, be part of the different decision-making processes that involve our present and our future lives. As most of the attendees and speakers repeated, “nothing about the youth, without the youth.” ECOSOC served as a successful platform to unite passionate youth from all over the world to exchange ideas and support each other during one of the most challenging times, the COVID-19 pandemic.
As participants, we got to hear the promises of our national Ministers and representatives of youth for our future, proposing solutions to outweigh the repercussions of COVID-19 in our education and work opportunities in the two-part event, “#YouthLead: Young People in the Driver’s Seat to Build Back Better.” Moreover, we got to hear from the stakeholders themselves that they recognize the role of youth as key in “building back better” from the pandemic and accelerating the SDGs. Finally, this forum put efforts to highlight the work youth are already doing in their countries and how collaboration and partnerships, namely the SDG 17, underpins all of the other SDGs.
Highlighting SDG17, the ECOSOC Youth Forum offered a “Virtual Networking Reception for Young Changemakers” session where all young participants connected in one-to-one and group calls to get to know each other’s’ passions and work in their countries, which I would say was the most important encounter of the whole event. Furthermore, my biggest takeaway was the amazing people I got to know and the friendships we made. Apart from this event, all of the participants further connected in different social media thanks to different initiatives of the participants themselves, which pretty much highlights what happens in the real scenario of changemaking: while older generations put efforts on highlighting their efforts, youth are doing the hard work that often goes unseen.
Similar to the Generation Equality Forum, I don’t want to leave unsaid the fact that there were very few opportunities to speak and even comment, and therefore influence this event. In fact, and I believe I can speak in the name of my peer delegates in this, we arrived to the event with the hopes of asking the hard question, raising the issues that are often not addressed, and representing those who couldn’t make it to the event, but ended up with the conclusion that the best, most secure way to do that is by leading the change we advocate for in our communities. The change is really up to us.
With “Leaving no one behind” and “Youth in the driver’s seat” as the key slogans of the event, it has been proven that youth are really the ones with the boldness to say what others are afraid to say, the willingness to be intentional in reaching those who are hard to reach, and the faith to trust innovation and teamwork as relevant elements for their solutions. Now more than ever, I’m beyond proud to be part of this generation and take the fight for equality, justice, and sustainability further from now on until forever. The ECOSOC Youth Forum leaves me with more expectations of the UN’s compromise of diversity and inclusion of youth in its decision-making spaces and a thirst for real, long-lasting change.