Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network

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Discriminatory gender norms are a central underpinning factor affecting the lives of young people in the Commonwealth today. Diverse issues from discrimination in employment, to sexual violence, to child marriage are all products of deep-rooted gender inequality. Although young people have often been victims of gender-based discrimination they are also well placed to combat these problems and build equality.

CYGEN continues to build a network of young people from across the Commonwealth who can collaborate and share good practice in their work. Youth voices on gender issues are not represented in formal Commonwealth youth structures and this is a vacuum which urgently needs to be filled in order to create a more robust network of advocates, who can effectively push for policy change at local, national, regional and international levels.

CYGEN Advocacy Campaign 2019

CYGEN, supported by The Royal Commonwealth Society as part of the Equality & Justice Alliance (EJA) programme, is seeking new members who will drive an exciting CYGEN campaign calling upon Commonwealth leaders to reform laws that discriminate against women and girls and LGBT+ people. The campaign will run for six months in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda in June 2020.

A small number of participants will take part in a three-day workshop to develop key messages and a campaign strategy to bring an end to discriminatory laws in the Commonwealth. Participants will then take part in a two-day video shoot, creating a series of short social media videos to promote the campaign and the work of the EJA and CYGEN. CYGEN is seeking new members who are passionate about reforming discriminatory laws and who can commit to driving the campaign at a local, national, regional and international level until CHOGM in Kigali in June 2020. and continue to be active and engaged members of the network moving forward.

The campaign workshop will take place from Monday 11th to Friday 15th November.

You can find out more about the Equality & Justice Alliance at

If you're interested in become a CYGEN member who can lead on this exciting campaign, please fill out the application form

If you're already a CYGEN member who would like to attend the Campaign Workshop, please complete this application form. 


Gender Equality Future Advocates Training 2018

In July 2018 The Royal Commonwealth Society organised a five-day residential training course in Colombo, Sri Lanka, open to applicants aged between 18-15 from the Commonwealth Asia-Pacific Region. Applicants had to be able to demonstrate prior experience of working on gender equality issues, either in youth, community or workplace settings, through social action projects or studies and be resident in one of the following Commonwealth countries: Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

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The highly participatory and interactive peer learning week seeks to develop critical understanding and action about gender, development and social justice. It strengthens the role of young people in Commonwealth action and decision-making on gender equality issues by giving participants an understanding of the different political structures that have the ability to support gender equality and how to harness them effectively. It also strengthens youth gender networks. Using experiential learning activities, discussion and debate, it enables young advocates to address a range of gender equality issues and provides an opportunity for peer learning and collaboration, and the development of advocacy, social action and leadership skills.

CYGEN and the RCS are committed to ending gender-based discrimination for all. Participants are committed to working for equality for all members of society, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Royal Commonwealth Society is grateful for the support of DFAT Australia.

CYGEN at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 2017

For the second year, CYGEN was represented at both the Youth and NGO Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York. Leveraging on the diverse NGO CSW space, CYGEN representatives amplified the network’s efforts in engaging young people across the Commonwealth in advocacy and decision making on gender equality. Representatives spoke on several high level panels and attended NGO CSW sessions on key issues, including non-communicable diseases response, economic empowerment of indigenous women, legal reforms for the protection of LGBTQIA+ people, safety of adolescent girls and men/boys’ engagement for social justice. CYGEN also had the ability to engage strategically with international organizations based in New York. On behalf of CYGEN, a 10-minute intervention was delivered at the Population Council to back the “She Decides” global campaign. The Network also contributed to the official report on UNSCR 2250 (2015) and UNSCR 1325 (2000) on Youth, Women, Peace, and Security via the UN Women Focus Group on Young Women in Peace and Security. In addition, CYGEN was represented in the Young Feminists Caucus, liaising with other young feminists at CSW to bring forward the voices and visions of young feminists for the future.

CYGEN’s involvement was very well received during both the Youth and NGO CSW, not only in their side event 'Intergenerational Leadership - Golden standard to combat GBV', which was a great success, but in their involvement across the board. The side event discussed CYGEN’s journey and intergenerational approach to advocacy, highlighting how SOGIEGESC is included in the dialogue. The panel discussion also focused on violence against women and girls and good practices from Kenya and Samoa. The session ended discussing the challenges for intergenerational dialogues, relating it to the WAMM last year. CYGEN members were also able to effectively engage with, and provide positive solutions and input to, older activists, as well as providing effective solutions and ideas to other fellow activists.

CYGEN at the United Nations and Commonwealth Week 2016

In March 2016 CYGEN helped to run the first ever Youth Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on the fringes of the official United Nations CSW. CYGEN participated as a member of an inter-agency working group of gender equality and youth organisations convened by UN Women. As well as speaking at the event and supporting the organisation of the conference, CYGEN representatives from Sri Lanka and Kenya, spoke at the Commonwealth Meeting of National Women’s Machineries and helped to launch a new global campaign, #Levelthelaw, to equalise gender discriminatory laws across the world.

Meanwhile CYGEN's co-ordinator, Sarah Soysa, was in London to attend the launch of the 2016 Commonwealth theme, 'An Inclusive Commonwealth', she attended Royal Commonwealth Society events and met HM The Queen. She also attended the Commonwealth Secretariat’s youth week to build new partnerships with Commonwealth organisations and youth-led networks including the Commonwealth Youth Council, Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network and the Commonwealth Youth Human Rights and Democracy Network.


CHOGM 2015 Youth Forum featuring a speech by CYGEN Co-ordinator Sarah Soysa

The Royal Commonwealth Society caught up with Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, to discuss the CHOGM Women's Forum


During the Women’s Forum at CHOGM, CYGEN ran a session with the help of the RCS to foster inter-generational dialogue on empowering young gender equality champions. The session brought together speakers from the Commonwealth Secretariat, UN Women, and civil society groups along with audience members from both the Women’s Forum and Youth Forum. Practical recommendations drawn up as part of this dialogue included urging national youth councils to recruit gender advisers to ensure adequate representation, and ensuring national curricula have a ‘gender lens’.

CYGEN and the RCS also met with the Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja to present these recommendations and to discuss building a youth voice into global gender discussions, including the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting in 2016.


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