United Nations, Bangkok, 24 May 2012 — From 22 to 24 May, over 40 young people from around the globe gathered in Bangkok for the first-ever Global UNiTE Youth Forum. The event was hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s global campaign UNiTE to End Violence Against Women and brought together young activists, aged 18-30, to build partnerships and strengthen the movement of young people working to end persistent gender inequality and violence against women and girls.
The three-day series of workshops and knowledge-sharing culminated in the formation of a Global UNiTE Youth Network and the presentation of a UNiTE Youth Statement to senior UN officials.
The fact that violence against women and girls continues to be one of the world’s most widespread human rights violations is the raison d’être of the UNiTE campaign, which was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2008. Recognizing the crucial role of young people in changing mindsets, the UNiTE campaign has made youth leadership a key priority.
“We know that violence against women is a result of deeply embedded cultural values and social attitudes and unequal power relations,” explains Nanda Krairiksh, Co-Chair of the UN Regional Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, “Young people are more open to questioning outdated gender stereotypes and behaviours that perpetuate violence and discrimination.”
Engaging with men and boys to alter patriarchal values and harmful beliefs about masculinity is a cornerstone to ending the pandemic of violence against women and girls.“Even if young men do not practice violence themselves,” says Shoko Ishikawa, Acting Regional Programme Director of UN Women, “they have such an important role to play in speaking out against violence against women and girls within their peer groups and beyond.” One third of the activists taking part in the Youth Forum were young men.
Coming from the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, the young activists had much to discuss about the types of violence they see in their communities and the various ways they address it in their work – as peer trainers, counselors, filmmakers, bloggers, in women’s shelters and men’s anti-violence networks. The use of social media has become an industry standard in the world of activism and the effort to end violence against women is no exception.
Dhruv Arora, a participant at the Forum and activist with Indian anti-violence initiative Must Bol said, “I think the possibility of going online anonymously and discussing issues which may be sensitive in some families or cultures is easier for some people. Social media allows people to connect with others and learn that other people share their concerns and it gives them the courage to speak about it.”
The Global UNiTE Youth Forum formed a UNiTE Youth Network from the three-day gathering. This global network will seek to attract more young activists from around the world to join the campaign to form an even stronger movement of committed young people working locally, internationally and online in their effort to be the generation that ends violence against women and girls.
Ms. GihanHassanein, Communications Officer, +66 (0)90 405 38 29, gihan.hassanein[at]unwomen.org
UNiTE to End Violence against Women is the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s campaign to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world by 2015. Through UNiTE, the entire UN system is joining forces with governments, civil society, women’s organizations, young people, the media and the private sector to raise public awareness, increase political will and resources, and strengthen partnerships to end violence against women and girls.