The final day of the Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network (CYGEN) forum saw the culmination of 5 days of hard work from young experts from 22 countries. Over the course of the week these delegates have crafted a set of priority policy recommendations for the Commonwealth network.
These recommendations have been consolidated into an outcome document focusing on five policy areas: Youth Transitions; Governance; Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics; Child Marriage and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. As the Commonwealth Gender Plan of Action expires in 2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals emerge, which will set the development agenda for the next 15 years, there has never been a more critical time to advocate for improved policies on gender and equality issues. The CYGEN forum launched, as part of its final statement, the ‘Gender Five': the network’s priority policy recommendations, one from each of our five key themes:
1. All young people of the Commonwealth must have access to gender-inclusive, quality education with relevant curricula which prioritises holistic learning methods that prepare young people for decent fair work, equitable employment opportunities and entrepreneurship, transitioning to productive and resilient lives.
2. The right of all women, girls and young people from marginalised groups must be recognised in order to successfully influence decision making, to hold leaders to account, and enable them to be partners in peace and stability.
3. Commonwealth institutions must include an understanding of the needs of people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identities, gender expression and sex characteristics, developed in consultation with civil society, in the technical advice they provide to States in areas related to economic security such as education, employment and housing.
4. The Commonwealth Secretariat should commission a gender audit of all policies at the Commonwealth and national government levels for all member states, including for child marriage.
5. Every country should respect the right of all young people to make safe and informed sexual and reproductive health decisions by allocating appropriate health budget to develop a nationwide mobile application or hotline to disseminate youth-friendly information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, health care and services.
Commenting on the lack of gender equality which these recommendations seek to address, John Loughton, co-chair of the forum said, “Inaction and silence is not an option. Dear Governments, this is not good enough. We want to hold the Commonwealth to account…but also be its ally for change.”
Closing the conference the President of Malta HE Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca urged the delegates at the forum to take the network forward. She described how everything from poverty to low education could not be solved without addressing gender inequality. As part of Her Excellency’s support for the forum, delegates were treated to a guided tour of her summer residence, the Verdala Palace.
With the conference drawn to a close the work of the network will be just beginning as delegates return to their countries with a sound statement on gender equality for them to advocate for. They will also be exploring how best to continue and expand the network as an effective tool to articulate the voice of young gender experts in the Commonwealth.