Today we launched the Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network, the first youth network in the Commonwealth dedicated to working towards gender equality. The participants gathered here in Malta are some of the Commonwealth’s brightest and bravest young leaders: together in Malta to try to find solutions to problems that aren’t easy to solve. The launch day has seen some wonderful speakers and some interactive and dynamic discussions, as the group begins work to shape what the Network will achieve, how it will work and what its priorities will be.
The President of Malta, H.E Marie Louise Coleira Preca, opened the forum with strong words, saying:
"You came here to meet fellow young people, and to discuss matters which effect your own lives, and the lives of many others. I urge you to be bold and work towards change that is positive and inclusive." Her words, and those of Gulalai Ismail, one of the two Youth Chairs, who stated that "Today silence is not our option: we cannot remain silent anymore", set the scene for a day of powerful discussions, culminating in an interactive dialogue – a ‘world café’ – on the main themes of the forum.
The world cafe allowed delegates to feed into a range of areas that the working groups are due to deliberate on over the coming days. An intersectional debate ensued as issues as diverse as the sexual health of transgender people; developing participatory political engagement; addressing cyber bullying and gender-based violence were hotly discussed. The mapping of key gender and gendered issues allowed participants to explore a range of areas in addition to the main forum focuses.
The opening day also saw speakers representing the Commonwealth Youth Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat and RCS President Lord Howell of Guildford, as well as a performance from Senegalese hip hop artist Sister Fa, who uses her music and experience to educate communities to eradicate female genital cutting.
A delegate from Sri Lanka sums up her experience of the day:
"The first day of the CYGEN forum, in my opinion, successfully laid out the foundation for the rest of the Forum. The speakers not only highlighted the current trends, strengths and the weaknesses in the existing structures of youth participation, but also the opportunities to engage further in carrying out our work - which was greatly encouraging. The World Cafe segment of the programme was truly dynamic as everyone was able to give their input into different working groups. I am personally thrilled by the new perspectives I was exposed to, and the experiences shared by all delegates will be a massive driving force for the success of the forum! Can't wait for the rest!"
You can read more about the conference on our dedicated page, and interact on social media @TheRCSLondon / #CYGEN. The conference continues until Sunday 17th May, and blogs will be uploaded daily.