On March 1, 2022 at the margin of the 8th Session of the Africa Regional Forum for Sustainable development; Restless Development, FEMNET, Firelight Foundation, African Youth Commission, AU-CIEFFA and GPE convened a virtual youth-led side event on the margins of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development.
The discussion explored important intersections between climate justice, gender, education and livelihoods as part of the eighth session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development that held in Kigali, Rwanda from 3 to 5 March 2022, under the theme of “Building forward better: A green, inclusive and resilient Africa poised to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063”.
More than 35 young people from Cameroon, Kenya, Gambia, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe joined the side event and shared their insights on the role of young people in building a more sustainable Africa.
Young people recognize that there is a linkage between education, gender and the climate crisis. They see education as a key tool for building resilience and raising awareness on issues around the climate crisis and also achieving gender equality. Many countries in Africa have made advancements in gender parity in education by legislating universal education for all at the primary level, gender gaps in education widen at secondary and tertiary levels.
Young people highlighted child marriage, early pregnancy, and school-related gender-based violence as major barriers to girls’ access to education. They also highlighted that young females from minority groups, particularly those with disabilities, are left behind. Therefore, they are calling on their leaders to invest in building gender-responsive education systems to empower every boy and girl to fulfil their potential.
Transformative education for climate justice.
Awareness of the climate crisis needs to be incorporated from the bottom up so that the next generation is prepared with the knowledge and skills they need to build resilience in their communities and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Young people prepare this generation of African youth to build resilience, skills, and knowledge to mitigate the impacts of climate change, build more resilient societies, and ensure greater gender equality and climate justice across Africa.
The Digital Divide.
Accessibility and affordability of the internet is paramount to ensure an inclusive and a sustainable Africa.The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly all aspects of the achievement of SDG 4 and access to opportunities, leaving underprivileged young people and women further behind. Internet accessibility and unreliable connectivity is a huge concern for young people. However, there is a huge opportunity to lead change using digital spaces. Eg. Social media has created a great platform for young people to raise their voices.
Government, private sector and young people should collaborate in branding and producing media content that is pro-green and sustainable across different media to change the mindsets of citizens in Africa in order to achieve great harmony of the environment and people. Community-focused youth led solutions and campaigns should be highlighted and invested in to increase their reach and impact.
Africa has a lot of knowledge that should be incorporated in formal education to ensure that young people learn from the indigenous communities on how they have been mitigating and adapting from climate change to create a more sustainable future.
More young people are being left out of decision making processes. They are not given enough time and the capacity to contribute in shaping policy and at big influencing platforms, at the actual policy processes or intergovernmental negotiations and are often sequestered to observer roles. Young people should play a key role in contributing to climate action, gender and education strategies.
Young people believe in representation, they commended leaders to rethink how to Provide seats for more young people especially young women from fragile communities and to facilitate more dialogue/collaboration at national and international level.
Alice Mukashyaka is the Advocacy Manager for Livelihoods and Education at Restless Development, where she coordinated the biggest youth-led study on global education since the pandemic hit, the ‘By Us, For Us’ and convened the #MakeEducationWork campaign in partnership with the RewirED Summit, reaching nearly 13 million young people. Alice is also the co-founder of Starlight, a Rwandan Ed-tech social enterprise that makes STEM learning kits and introduces high school students to STEM careers, mentorship, and role models. She is the UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow and she is currently supporting the office of the African Union envoy on youth in elaborating plans of action to achieve the Africa we want.