Back in September Youth Accountability advocate Aparna went to the United Nations General Assembly to discuss her work collecting data on access to contraception and family planning in Delhi.
I felt so fortunate to participate in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this September. Meeting new people, from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and traditions every day was a great experience and I learnt so much from every conversation I had during the High Level week.
It is difficult to convey in words how inspiring each day in New York was. The UN General Assembly was no longer an illusion to me as I felt beautifully immersed into its reality. Overlooking the East River, the flags of 193 UN Member States stood united with each other with their heads held high. I felt so proud to see my home country’s flag equally represented with the other Member States. It put me through spirals of emotions and motivated me to work hard all week.
There were a lot of things happening in the UN during the week but I was most excited for the launch of the first ever UN Youth Strategy: Youth 2030, Working With and For Young People. Through its Youth Strategy, the UN seeks to strengthen its work in four key areas- to become a Leadership Example; Knowledge and Innovation Pioneer; Investment and Solution Catalyst; and an Accountability Leader.
These commitments will ensure that the UN will be a vital source of protection and support for 1.8 billion young people over the globe. It provides a platform through which our needs can be addressed, our voices can be amplified and our engagement can be advanced.
At the launch of the Strategy, myself and Aisha, a fellow Youth Accountability Advocate from Tanzania, were fortunate enough to meet the UN Secretary General’s Youth Envoy and speak about our Youth Accountability Advocacy projects and fieldwork with her. We shared our excitement about the launch of the Youth Strategy and expressed our hopes that it will be an important way forward to protect the rights of many young people.
In addition to the Youth Strategy launch, I was able to take part in a number of engaging events with governments, UN agencies and civil society representatives, including a Roundtable on harnessing youth-led change for gender equality, the Global Goals World Cup and the Global Goalkeepers Award Ceremony. Many of the events – such as the celebration of the launch of Girls First, which is supported by the Ford Foundation, and the launch of the 2018 Report of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman, Every Child, Every Adolescent – were all about ensuring ‘Youth Power’. These events highlighted the importance of recognising sexual, reproductive and health rights of young people and the representation of young people at global platforms through networks and alliances.
I belong to the tech-savvy generation, but we strive to collect data on phones and tablets in low network areas where people distrust technology. As Accountability Advocates, we are trusted to function in a smart way to meet challenges whilst working in the field. Meeting with Pivotal Labs and other tech partners during the UNGA, gave me a window to address these issues directly and explore the advantages of technology for a community.
Each meeting and conversation I had this week was a new chance to learn, and to have the opportunity to represent what ‘I’ as a young person feel. I was able to raise concerns and highlight the barriers that I face in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and how I am being supported by a broader civil society movement.
As a member of both the panel and the audience at these different events, I often got the opportunity to raise questions on behalf of young people. However, although the agenda of many high-level meetings revolved around young people, I was disappointed to see that there was hardly any representation from young people in many of these more formal UN level decision making forums. It is sad and contradictory that the accessibility to these decision making tables seems to be so low for young people. It is therefore my hope that the new UN Youth Strategy will stand by its commitment to work not just for young people like myself, but jointly with us and ensure that at next year’s UNGA we have more seats at the decision making tables.