Last month two youth advocates were at the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
For 8 days straight, they worked hard to advocate for the role of young people in holding governments to account for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - particularly SDG 5, Gender Equality.
Two Restless Development Youth Accountability Advocates, Aparna Agarwal from India and Aisha Matiko from Tanzania, came to New York to share the work they are doing in their communities, collecting data on gender equality and access to family planning to hold their governments to account on their commitments.
The event consisted of a series of General Debates that ran over two weeks. This years theme was: 'Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies'.
Restless Development hosted two events that meant young people led the conversations around UNGA. At the first event, 'Media, Messaging and Social Movements', Aisha spoke on the panel about how she uses social media to connect with young people within and beyond her community to strengthen her accountability work.
The second event,'Harnessing youth-led change for gender equality,' aimed to connect organisations and young people working on youth-led change for gender equality, to share their best practice and evidence as well as identify ways to collaborate and build a stronger movement for change.
The youth advocates also spoke at several events about their accountability work.
At an event organised by the UN Major Group for Children and Youth called “NCDs and Primary Health Care: Road to Universal Health Coverage”, Aparna talked about the barriers young people face when accessing contraception and family planning services in the suburbs of Delhi.
Aparna advocates for youth-friendly health services so that young people - particularly young women - can access family planning services without stigma. "My work helps young people to break the silence and awkwardness in talking about sexual needs and reproductive rights. I am passionate about working towards the recognition of young minds and their representation in policy and advocacy." You can read more on Aparna's work here.
Aisha spoke powerfully at an event called “Universal Health Coverage Leaves No One Behind: working together towards good health and well-being for all”, sharing a story she came across during her data collection, which highlights the barriers faced by young women in her community.
Watch Aisha’s story about a girl named Grace who she met while doing her accountability work on Gender-based violence in Tanzania:
Aisha highlighted that without involving young people in development, these stories would remain untold. "I feel that my work is really transforming lives in my community for the better, especially for the many young girls and women who were not aware of Gender-Based Violence and Violence Against Children issues and their rights as women."
Four Youth Power leaders were nominated as Bill and Melinda Gates Goalkeepers in recognition of their great work holding decision makers to account for the SDGs in their countries. Ed Sheeran sang at the event that was held for all the nominees.
Pooja Kapahi from India was recognised for her work in addressing issues of gender based violence and child marriages as well as her strong desire to encourage girls and women in India to aspire and achieve professional development.
Marie Esso from Cameroon founded the youth-led NGO ‘Promise’ which trains young people in youth-led accountability approaches, particularly in rural Cameroon.
Michael Semiye from Nigeria initiated the Nigerian Youth SDGs network which now has 611 member organisations working to hold the government of Nigeria to account for the SDGs.
Francis Ametepey from Ghana has committed to utilize the power of social media to raise awareness, educate and inform as well as hold leaders accountable to the promise of the SDGs. As a member of Ghana Accountability Advocates Network, he also promotes young people’s participation in monitoring the SDGs important insights into how to improve African youth participation in shaping the sustainable development agenda on the continent.
All four youth power leaders have achieved so much and you can read more about their amazing work on our blog.
Excitingly, this event also saw the launch of the Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator, on which Restless Development was announced as an official partner! This new multi-partner initiative led by CIVICUS will support young people who are using data in innovative ways to address local development challenges related to poverty, hunger, health and well-being, education, gender equality, and water and sanitation.
This busy UNGA session also saw the launch of the new UN Youth Strategy! Although many UN agencies have youth strategies, this is the first overarching UN strategy on youth to set out how the entire UN should work in partnership with young people. Read Restless Development’s thoughts on the new youth strategy here.