Keya Khandaker shares her experience as a speaker at the ‘1.8billion strong’ event by the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Sustainable Development Goals in the UK Parliament’s House of Lords on Tuesday 6th September 2016

Yesterday I was invited to speak in Parliament at an event debating the role of young people in development. With major shifts and a number of new faces in UK government in recent months, this was a chance to reinforce the power of young people to tackle some of the greatest challenges we face. I was there to tell politicians and other young people how I’ve seen our generation make sure the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which aim to fix problems like poverty, inequality and climate change, are acted upon.

Sometimes I worry whether our politicians even know about the Global Goals. We’ve only got 14 years left now to deliver them, and there are still many unanswered questions as to how governments will do that.

Fortunately, the event – organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – was hugely encouraging. Not only did it get the word out about the Global Goals in the UK, but it showed know that the UK Government wants to put young people at the forefront of work to deliver and measure the goals.

Where so often young people are included as a nice photo opportunity, last night’s event wasn’t the case. And for young people in the room, it was the first step in proving to UK Government officials – be it members of the Department For International Development (DFID), MPs, or Lords – that young people are willing and capable to be at the core of work being done to deliver the Global Goals.

Proving our role using data

That willingness is clear when you look closer at the work of Accountability Advocates – a group of young people using data to hold governments to account. I’m one of them, along with 19 others in countries across the world.

Here in the UK, I’ve teamed up with Nazzy Amin from Halifax, and Raf Galdeano from Wiltshire to focus on SDG targets and indicators on sexual and reproductive health (with a focus on comprehensive education), FGM, and gender-based violence in the UK.

Good sexual and reproductive education is vital for preventing transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections, avoiding unwanted pregnancy, spotting and preventing FGM, LGBT rights and tolerance, and preventing and reporting sexual violence.

Through creating an online survey that was promoted and shared on social media, we bridged a gap between young people and government data collection. We were successful in receiving 303 responses, which we are now analysing, sharing and using to campaign with, which we feel proves the effectiveness of youth-led accountability and young people generating data on themselves for monitoring the SDGs.

A key aspect of our work is to present our findings to the UK Government, in order to hold it accountable for their commitments. The APPG’s ‘1.8 billion strong’ event  gave us the opportunity to discuss the need for youth-led accountability and present our National Accountability Framework, and was a perfect way to prove ourselves as young people. We mean business.

I’m grateful we’re in a time where young people can meaningfully be included in these spaces with decision-makers; that I could freely speak about how it is the UK Government’s responsibility to keep to the promises made in the Goals, and to advocate for the importance of youth-generated data and youth-led accountability.

Young people should be at the forefront of driving meaningful change. Our generation sees ourselves as global citizens, we can’t work any other way. If we want the Global Goals to provide some answers to the biggest challenges our world faces, then we need to have young people – here in the UK as well as my teammates across the world- asking those tough questions. I feel confident in knowing that Lord McConnell (who hosted the event) and DFID Minister Rory Stewart (who spoke) are on board with the role of young people in achieving the Goals, and it shows that we’re moving in the right direction. It means we can be optimistic, because we have to be: in 2030 I’ll only be 35, and we won’t tolerate poverty, inequality and climate change.

Accountability Advocates are part of Restless Development’s Youth Power campaign. Find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved.

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