Strengthening young women's leadership

The issue

Across the world and across all sectors women’s leadership continues to be underrepresented. Women must contend with discriminatory laws, institutions, and attitudes that restrict their leadership and full participation in public life. Women are also disadvantaged by unequal access to the resources needed to become effective leaders.

Young women experience discrimination based both on gender and on age. In particular, critical gaps in funding and resources for education, skills development and mentorship impact the ability of young women to realize their full potential as leaders.

Investing in women’s leadership requires a lifecycle approach to strengthening and supporting girls’ leadership, adolescent girls’ leadership, young women’s leadership, and women’s leadership. We know that investing in young women’s leadership will not only change the trajectory of their future, but that of their communities as well.

Our solutions

UN Women works to strengthen young women’s leadership through a number of different approaches.

In Eastern and South Africa, UN Women’s Regional Leadership Programme supported the establishment of the Africa Centre for Transformative and Inclusive Leadership, which increased the capacity of local youth to engage in policymaking and other political processes.

In Rwanda, UN Women facilitated the establishment of Youth Councils and Women Councils, through which youth, including young women, are now actively contributing to the national development agenda.

On International Youth Day, 12 August 2016, UN Women launched a Global Network on Young Women Leaders to share experiences and strategies on how to empower other young women and inspire a new generation of leaders.

UN Women provides support and funding to youth and youth-led organizations that facilitate young women’s leadership and participation.

In India, a UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality-supported project ‘Making Women’s Voices and Votes Count’ trained eighteen young women to run and manage information centres that connected women representatives and women’s groups across geographically dispersed areas. Through training in the use of communication tools and technology, the young women reached 40,000 rural households and facilitated more than 4,000 claims on entitlements to housing, employment, pensions, health, and food.

UN Women works to increase young women’s representation and participation in decision-making processes at regional and global forums.

At the sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, UN Women, the World YWCA, and a coalition of youth-led civil society organizations brought together more than 300 young leaders for the first-ever Youth Forum at CSW on 11-12 March 2016 to engage in advocacy and network building around the priority theme of ‘Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.’ 

UN Women facilitated the participation of young women leaders and entrepreneurs at the 2017 ECOSOC Youth Forum, as part of the Youth Leadership Programme developed and implemented by UNDP with the support of UN Women in the Arab region.

Related links

Speech: “A high-five for gender equality and SDG 5”

Closing remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the CSW60 Youth Forum, 12 March 2016, on the importance of young women and young men achieving a planet that is equal and just. More

From where I stand
Abla Al Hajaia. Photo: UN Women/Christopher Herwig

Abla Hajaia

“I made history by becoming the youngest City Council member in Jordan...”

SDG 5: Gender Equality

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Planet 50–50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality