Blog Poll: Identifying Solutions Best Way for Asian Youth to Help Achieve Gender Equality

High school students in Dili, Timor-Leste.
High school students in Dili, Timor-Leste.

By Laurence Levaque

Young women and men can think outside the box to address gender challenges.

In our March blog poll about gender equality and youth, we asked readers what they believe is the best way young women and men can help implement the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 – to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.

SDG5 includes targets to end all forms of discrimination, violence, early and forced marriage, and other harmful practices against women and girls; to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, women's full participation and leadership in decision making, equal rights to land and other economic resources; and to recognize unpaid care and domestic work.

The largest number of young people in the world, about 750 million aged 15-24, are in Asia and Pacific, where the youth has huge potential to shape the future of the region, as well as a critical role to play in implementing SDG5. The young women and men of today will become adults by 2030 and therefore have a vested interest in achieving gender equality. Fully aware of this potential, ADB has been supporting youth efforts on gender equality and women’s empowerment in Asia through the #Hi5forSDG5 campaign.

There was no better time to get to know what our readers think about the role of youth in achieving SDG5. Following the ECOSOC Youth Forum on SDG implementation in February this year at UN headquarters in New York, another Youth Forum Advancing Agenda 2030 - Empowered Young Women and Young Men as Partners in Achieving Gender Equality took place in March, as one of the flagship events of this year's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). In a progressive statement, a group of young feminists at the 60th CSW called for meaningful, full and effective youth participation in decision-making and accountability, including in formulating, developing, implementing and evaluating laws, policies, plans and budgets. They emphasized that youth participation cannot be tokenistic.

I am happy to find out that our readers seem to have similar views and think that young women and men can indeed be active actors and equal partners in promoting and achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The majority (41%) of them think the youth can help identify solutions to meet SDG5. They are absolutely right. For example, the youth can provide creative ideas and help develop Apps that will help prevent violence against women and girls and provide support to survivors of violence. They can come up with new and affordable technologies that will save women’s time spent on household responsibilities. They can identify measures that will make sexual and reproductive health services more accessible and friendly to the youth. Young women and men in South Asia can design a campaign with adequate and powerful messages to eliminate child marriage. Practical solutions that can achieve significant impact are often simpler than we think – we just have to encourage youth participation, give them a space, and be willing to listen to them and adopt the practical solutions they identify. Moreover, many young women and men have the capacity to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to remaining gender challenges‎.

29% of poll respondents encouraged the youth to share success stories to promote women’s empowerment. Of course few stories will be as popular as that of Malala, the Pakistani activist who defied the Taliban and became the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for human rights advocacy for education. 2016 started well for women; in January, Dr. Hilda Heine was elected President of the Marshall Islands, the first female head of state in the Pacific, a region where the average representation of women in politics is the lowest in the world at 8.8%. It is crucial for young people to share success stories, even more those that they witness in and closer to their homes, in their communities so they will be inspired by them and inspire others to do much more to help empower women and girls across Asia and the Pacific. Nowadays the youth have access to incredible means of communication and can make good use of social media to support information sharing, awareness raising and advocacy on gender equality.

In our survey, 17% of participants noted that discussing gender equality is the major role young people can play. The quest for equal rights and fairness starts at a very young age, and both young women and men can discuss in the classroom instances of inequality and discrimination that occur at school. When they get home they can share what they have discussed with their siblings and parents, and thus slowly raise awareness about the problem not only among the youth but all age groups. Raising awareness on why gender equality matters and the gender agenda among their peers, in their communities and countries, and at the global level is certainly the most obvious role the youth can play, but they can do much more than that and this clearly came out from the results of our poll.  

Finally, 13% of respondents are convinced that lobbying politicians is the best way for the youth to help achieve gender equality. It probably helps if the politician is a woman, but even with male politicians (who still represent a large majority of them) young people should not shy away from approaching them to call their attention, share their challenges and suggest ways forward to help meet SDG5. There is no doubt that local elected representatives and policymakers will appreciate receiving constructive contributions from the youth to address gender equality concerns in their constituency/locality. This represents one way for young women and men to engage in policy dialogue on gender equality, and hold their leaders and governments accountable for achieving SDG5.

Want to know more about #Hi5forSDG5? Visit our Facebook page and watch out for the results of our youth competition.