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African youth take a stand at the 2nd MenEngage Africa Symposium

Background

The Youth Forum for the 2nd MenEngage Africa Symposium is a platform where young people can contribute to the symposium’s political discussions through their collective ideas, solutions and innovations. The Forum will allow representatives of youth organizations and networks, youth ministries and parliament of Mozambique and Africa in general, to have a dialogue to explore ways and means to promote the development and engagement of young people.

With the slogan “The Africa We Want: Youth Leadership to Strengthen Activism and Partnership on Gender Equality and Social Justice”, the forum to be held on 23rd of April in 2018, will take place in a critical political-social context as the continent undergoes various social, economic and political challenges, among these conflicts, political instability and various practices associated with the violation of human rights. And young people continue to be the population most affected by these challenges in the continent.

These include:

  • Existence of improper socially-accepted gender norms and values about what constitute acceptable behaviour and interpersonal relationships instilled since childhood.
  • The lack of state accountability in comprehensively addressing youth related issues is promotion of good health and wellbeing and upholding of youth rights and privileges.
  • Insufficient data and research. Though an area receiving increased attention and investments, statistical data on the scale, nature and consequences of youth remains limited. Quantitative surveys have been conducted in roughly 100 countries, though there is wide variation in methods, in the size of the population surveyed, and in the type of information that is collected. Surveys usually do not capture all groups of youth, nor reflect variations among boys and girls within a given country or other disaggregated information that is useful for planning. Population-based surveys (of which there are fewer) are the most reliable sources of data but are costly to implement and require technical expertise. Without regular implementation of such surveys (every five to ten years), progress on youth involvement and empowerment cannot be monitored over time. High impact advocacy messages that are not backed by hard data also hinder ongoing efforts to ensure policy commitments and investments.
  • Limited scope and coverage of services and interventions. In most countries, especially considering the magnitude of the numbers affected, youth services are very limited in scope and reach. This is linked to the low priority and insufficient investments made in addressing the problem. Where services do exist, they are often concentrated in urban centres or larger cities, and are unlikely to be comprehensive, perhaps focused in one or a few sectors and lacking the coordination and referral capacities required. Many services to date (especially safe houses/shelters, legal aid and other supports) are provided by non-governmental organizations, who are lacking resources and are only able to reach small numbers of the population. In addition, existing approaches may not reach especially vulnerable and at-risk groups of youth such as adolescent girls, migrant, indigenous or other groups of young people for which mainstream outreach efforts will be inadequate. Also limited is the existence of effective primary prevention programmes, resulting from underinvestment in this area and the fact that most interventions have focused on supporting bottle necks.

Context

Sixty percent of the African population is below the age of 25. Yet the youth in Africa are alienated and marginalized and they are not involved in policy formulation and less consulted in the decision-making process, many are underemployed and with no jobs and the continent is having an energized youth with most of its energy invested in stirring-up conflicts and violence. Proper engagement of youth at all levels of development is of paramount importance. UNECA Youth Report (2009)

The African Union defines youth as individual aged between 15 to 35 years old. For the sake of international agreement, this document employs the UN definition of youth. The African population is estimated to be more than a billion people, among whom more than 65% are young under the age of 35, and the youth make up 40% of Africa’s working age population. In Africa, young people aged 15-24 account for 20.2% of the population. UNECA Youth Report (2009)

Most of the social problems affect the youth most of times and compromise their future. Notwithstanding the important progress the African continent has made in terms of laws, policies and services for the realization of gender justice and human rights, much more needs to be done on issues such as conflict, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights Including premature marriages and HIV. It is known that at least 45% of the continent’s women report having already suffered some form of violence from their intimate partner.

And according to UNICEF, most of the 20 countries with the highest rates of preterm marriages are on the African continent where at least 40% of women married as children.

Sexual assault continues to be heavily used as a weapon of war as well as a form of empowerment, especially in the Great Lakes region and southern Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of women have been raped during conflicts affecting these regions.

Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest rate of new HIV infections worldwide, affecting mainly women and girls who make up more than 50% of people living with HIV in this region. Sub-Saharan Africa also has one of the highest rates of maternal and child mortality, making it one of the worst regions in the world for women to conceive. Africa has been a continent undermined by questionable social, legal, economic, and political structures that, paradoxically, mirror but also reproduce patriarchy. These structures have systematically perpetuated gender inequities and indicators unfavourable to development and human rights.

The Youth Forum towards the 2nd Menengage Symposium is therefore an important space dedicated to the discussion on how to make globalization work for all, and how to get young people to discuss issues that concern them in the first person, discuss specific topics related to the young person’s life itself.

The Forum will contribute to the segment of the 2nd MenEngage Africa Symposium, which will be held from April 23 to 27, 2018, and which will discuss violence; health and wellness; poverty, social exclusion and work; care; relationships and emotions; sexuality and identities; conflict; peace-building and social justice; construction of masculinities in the continent.

These issues affect African youth, especially Mozambican youth daily, and it is important to strengthen youth organizations, youth groups and students in terms of making them major players in the process of social change and transformation in relation to their own lives, with that demand and advocate for better and appropriate public policies for youth and that participate in decision-making processes.

The Forum will address topics of fundamental importance to young African people in the process of development, including the building blocks for education, health, and employment; issues such as climate change, migration, and technology; and the areas where policymakers are most concerned with youth: voice, governance, peace, and violence.

Objectives

  • Strengthen youth participation and leadership in MenEngage Africa through providing networking and partnership opportunities with MenEngage Africa youth advisory committee and youth in Africa;
  • Elaborate a Youth Statement to inform in the 2nd MenEngage Symposium political discussions;
  • Bring together youth organizations and groups for information sharing, learning and best practices to pave a sustainable way forward for the future through promoting collective action, ideas and initiatives;
  • Create space for intergenerational dialogue to strengthen partnerships across the generations to strengthen women’s rights and gender justice.

Forum topics

  • Youth Participation and leadership/Intergenerational dialogue
  • Gender Based Violence
  • Sexual violence: MeTooAidTooHomeToo#SchoolTool
  • Masculinities and gender relationships
  • Youth and Sexual Health and Reproductive Health Rights
  • Youth, peace and conflicts process

Participants

The Forum will gather 70 participants comprising of regional youth institutions representatives, youth advocates in civil society, representatives of the Pan African Youth Parliament, youth from LGBTQ movements, young people living with HIV, women and girl’s movements representatives, as well as representatives of regional and other multilateral organizations.

The Forum will also reflect diversity of youth organizations, representation of youth from all African regions, sexual and gender minorities, persons with disabilities, youths living in rural areas, youth living in informal settlements and both men and women.

23 April 2018
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