One Young World is a global platform for young leaders changing the world. Leading by example, One Young World Ambassadors and fellow young leaders from the AU-EU Youth Plug-In Initiative, Young Mediterranean Voices and EDD Young Leaders will share their experiences of launching initiatives to enhance equality. The young panellists will share their progress across various issues of gender equality - focusing on education, economic empowerment, gender-based violence and political inclusion - and challenge the audience to advance equality in their everyday lives.
We are honoured to be joined in this discussion by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Minister Advisor to the President of Senegal Youssou N'Dour and Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay.
- Education must be put at the heart of the political agenda worldwide.
Women should have equal access to economic opportunities.
The idea that gender-based violence is wrong must become mainstream thinking.
Stereotypes that women, especially young women, should not become political leaders must be eradicated.
Gender equality must start with education, a fundamental human right. The priority is to find actions and policies to accomplish this goal.
For example, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is aiming to promote education in and outside schools. One specific UNESCO project in 25 countries, “Better Life, Better Future”, aims to increase girls’ access to primary schools and help them continue into secondary education. Another key future goal is to prioritise the right for education in emergency situations.
It is also essential to change a culture where it is not seen as important for women to go to school as men – as their role is to get married – instead of hiding behind cultural differences in developing countries. In addition, girls should be educated to support their local community.
Women must be treated equally at work instead of being paid less for doing an identical job. Social initiatives, such as one in Afghanistan that provides women with poultry farms, can help. The money earned will allow their children to go to school. Such schemes combat social exclusion at a grassroots level.
The European Commission is aiming to create more social businesses for women in developing countries. Some 4,000 firms have been set up with EU funding in Afghanistan. Funding has also been given to micro-enterprises in Jordan, online businesses in Tunisia, and to help Egyptian farmers.
Action to combat gender-based violence should be more proactive and start with solutions. For example, the SheFighter project in the Middle East has trained more than 15,000 women in 27 countries to empower them mentally and physically through self-defence.
Stopping gender-based violence must become second nature. Legislation is key, but the role of young models, singers and footballers to promote the message of respect and that gender-based violence is unthinkable is the most powerful for the young.
In politics, women must be seen not only running for office but also getting into power. Political parties play an important role here, for example, a democratic alliance in South Africa that engages with local communities.
Women must be seen as just as capable as men when it comes to politics. A lesson can be taken from the LGBTI (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/intersex) community. Gender does not define people, they need to be valued on their own merit.
Infrastructure is also essential. Women need places to go to be heard – be they local libraries, cultural centres or youth groups – not just cafés, which can be only for men.
There is progress. For the first time ever, the Group of Seven summit of industrialised countries, taking place in Canada, will put female empowerment and women’s politics at the forefront of the agenda. If you put women around the table to discuss insoluble issues such as those in Syria, there is more focus on solutions than on the problems.
Men must be seen as part of the solution to solving gender equality. For ultimately, they too will benefit.