Billions of people across the world stand on the right side of history every day. They speak up, take a stand, mobilise, and take big and small actions to advance women’s rights. This is Generation Equality.
Now is the time for everyone to come together to make gender equality a reality.
The world is changing very fast, and we can’t talk about “I”, we have to talk about “we”.
We have to think about the families and communities beyond ourselves. Everyone needs to be a gender equality activist, because gender equality benefits everyone, and men and boys can play a key role in making it a reality.
There is an opportunity for every man and boy to encourage the empowerment of women and girls in their own families and communities. When women are empowered, progress accelerates. If women are working, their families are more supported. If women are helping to develop and improve the community, you have twice as many people working on this and it goes twice as fast.
Empowering women to make their own decisions benefits everyone, especially when women can make decisions about their own bodies.
Comprehensive sexual and reproductive education for all
An urgent issue I see in communities is the lack of sexual and reproductive education and services. This makes so many other issues in communities worse. For example, young women leave school because of teenage pregnancies.
When girls and women are aware of their sexual and reproductive rights, they have choices about their own bodies. But in order to make informed choices, they need access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive education, and to service providers. When women can make choices about their bodies and their families, they can also better contribute to the economic standing of their families, and to the development of their community.
Even though we know that young people want this information, often, we can only talk about it outside of a school, but it’s the girls from schools who are joining our community groups. They want to know. And in order to continue these conversations, we need to encourage our leaders to invest in this topic. We can’t keep being reactive, we need to be proactive.
Engage youth for better communities
Young people make a significant proportion of the world’s population right now. We are many, and we are facing a lot of challenges, like unemployment and the lack of health and services. But young people also have the power, the skills, and the ability to make their communities better.
My message to young people is: find your passion and then be at the forefront of making your communities better. Attend your village or community meetings and speak up. Vote in elections.
You need to see yourselves as part of the solutions to the challenges that you face.
We don’t want to make young people just beneficiaries of progress, but the driving force. They should learn about the commitments their leaders have made, like the Sustainable Development Goals, and then be involved in planning, and in implementation, reviewing and monitoring the process.
Our world leaders have pledged to take action, so the members of a community must really mobilise ourselves to ask for accountability. And accountability is not about saying what you want to do, rather doing what you say you will.
Abel Koka, 30, is an Assistant Program Coordinator for Restless Development in Tanzania. Koka is working to raise youth awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals and Family Planning 2020, and encouraging young activists to hold their government accountable. Koka is also a member of UN Women’s Beijing +25 Youth Task Force.