“A high-five for gender equality and SDG 5”—Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri

Closing Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the CSW60 Youth Forum, 12 March 2016.


UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri speaks at the closing of the CSW60 Youth Forum. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri speaks at the closing of the CSW60 Youth Forum. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

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Let me begin by inviting you to stand up and give a high-five to the people around you—a high-five for gender equality and SDG 5!

I am so grateful to all the young women and young men leaders in this room. You have created ‘HerStory’ by being a part of the first-ever global outreach by young people to support the global young women’s movement.

This forum is also the occasion on which UN Women has launched the first-ever Youth and Gender Equality Strategy—recognizing the importance of young women and young men and their critical role in leading us towards Planet 50-50 by 2030.

I would like to thank the YWCA and the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality for co-organizing this wonderful event and for all the tremendous efforts that have been made in the past to bring the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) closer to the youth of the world.

Special thanks to His Excellency Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Chair of the CSW; Ms. Deborah Austin, President of the World YWCA; Ms. Nicola Shepherd, UN Inter-agency co-chair (UNDESA); and Ms. Maria Jose Landeira Oestergaard, President of Zonta International, for taking your time to come here today and be part of a rising chorus of activism around the world to stop violence and discrimination against women and girls everywhere.

This CSW Youth Forum has taken place at a historic juncture. It comes after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by all Member States. The voice and actions of youth will be critical to achieving the objectives and goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Your presence here strengthens the United Nation’s message that investing in girls and young women is a powerful path to help young women, men and entire societies to escape from violence and marginalization.

This forum marks an important milestone in the rejuvenation of the United Nations. This is the first-ever youth forum tagged and linked to the CSW, and will provide an essential perspective and inputs to the CSW outcomes. We hope it will become an annual institution in the build up to the CSW.

I strongly commend the youth-designed, led and driven effort to engage with the CSW and other intergovernmental processes. CSW is an occasion to feed into future intergovernmental processes and youth engagement is critical to the processes and solutions required to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment and the 2030 Agenda.

This first-ever CSW Youth Forum, and your active participation in it, as well as the Youth Agreed Conclusions that you are presenting before CSW, strengthen the UN message that promoting gender equality is central to achieving the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, and the call for ensuring that women and girls are at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda.

I want to point out that the 2030 Agenda is a pledge to today’s youth and tomorrow’s future.

In a world where one in five people are under the age of 24, and approximately half of all young people are adolescent girls and young women, the 2030 Agenda and the Beijing Platform for Action have very real and hard implications for young people. Gender inequality, experienced every day, on the streets, at homes, in work places, schools and playgrounds, is holding them back from reaching their full potential. For example:

  • Today, girls and young women throughout the world continue to face gender-specific discrimination and disadvantage.
  • Globally, 35 per cent of all women and girls experience violence.
  • More than 700 million women alive today were married as children.
  • More than 73 million young people are unemployed today, but ILO studies show that unemployment among young women is even worse than among young men.
  • Young women make up more than 60 per cent of young people living with HIV globally.

Gender inequality starts very early. Efforts must be made to overcome gender stereotypes, social norms, behaviour and attitudes that perpetuate inequality and discrimination against women and girls.

A bottom-up and inclusive approach, starting at the grass-roots level, is needed to consolidate the building blocks of an equal world. You, the youth leaders of today, have to start an inclusive conversation in your communities, schools and work places, and among your friends on gender equality. Your support is most needed in engaging men and boys as gender equality advocates. Youth should also engage traditional leaders and faith-based organizations to promote gender equality.

The implementation of the 2030 Agenda requires you to champion the cause. In defining the ‘how’ to achieve commitments, I want to refer to the 10 key levers of change—what I call the Ten ‘I’s.

  1. Inspiration: You are the inspiration of the 2030 Agenda and our fight for achieving a world of peace, prosperity and equality for all. But also, the 2030 Agenda must inspire your engagement and ensure our utmost effort to achieve our gender equal world, our Planet 50-50 by 2030 latest. This youth call to action will generate aspirations and outcomes, which need to be taken account of and reflected in the broader CSW outcomes.
  2. Implementation: Youth are called to be the movers and shakers of the 2030 Agenda. Your voice and experience have to inform the implementation of local laws, policies and measures. You have a key advocacy role to play to ensure that all efforts deliver for women and girls.
  3. Indivisibility: The gender equality compact of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is an agreed package which should not be renegotiated. SGD 5, all gender-related targets and the whole SDG agenda must deliver for women and girls. This integral approach will demonstrate that gender equality is mission possible.
  4. Information: Build knowledge and create knowledge hubs for the youth to inform, share, innovate, replicate and reinforce the positive actions and contributions that could realize the 2030 Agenda. You need to demand from governments the use of age- and sex-disaggregated data to monitor progress on related issues in the 2030 Agenda.
  5. Institutions: National mechanisms for gender equality need to be an integral part of the national institutional arrangements for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The gender equality machineries, which are often under-resourced and lack authority, need to be strengthened in their capacity to influence implementation across all policy areas. Evidence demonstrates that institutions are better able to generate positive impact when they open their doors to the participation of civil society, including youth and gender equality advocates.
  6. Investment: One of the most pressing issues which must be solved in order to ensure the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the SDGs is the financing gap. Our challenge is to push for a gender-responsive, inclusive and sustainable macroeconomic framework that generates resources for gender equality, including investments in essential services and public infrastructure.
  7. Innovation: The 2030 Agenda is not business as usual. New forms of connection in which youth are strongly involved have emerged from advances in information and communication technologies. These enable alliance-building among networks and facilitate global, national and transnational activism towards promoting the empowerment of girls and young women. Social media is the development of your time. Let us use it to achieve the future that we want.
  8. Inclusion: To create the future envisioned in the 2030 Agenda, we need to ensure that all stakeholders and actors, including the youth movement, are involved, particularly to achieve SDG 5. We have to observe the principle of “leaving no one behind”. The 2030 Agenda will not be achieved unless all women and girls live a life free from discrimination.

We have to embrace collaboration with young women-led civil society organizations (CSOs) as a principle for the SDGs’ implementation. I encourage greater participation of the CSO movement as well as greater involvement of young men in the solidarity movement (HeForShe) to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

  1. Integration: The 2030 Agenda is a comprehensive framework that makes a clear link between gender equality and development, and includes gender as a cross-cutting issue linked with the overall objectives of human rights: Women, Peace and Security including in the context of violent extremism and counter-terrorism; the Humanitarian Action agenda; and the specific situations and vulnerability, such as trafficking, internal displacement and forced migration, as well as the impacts and challenges that all of these situations pose to the new Urban Agenda, which is to be agreed by the international community in October 2016.
  2. Impact: The impact of our action will be measured by our capacity to create cultural and social norms that are conducive to women's empowerment and those that hamper it. We need to focus on the need for social transformation for women's empowerment and how women's empowerment brings about social transformation.

We count on your activism to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are mainstreamed and prioritized in the youth agenda. It is important that young women and men are invested in the normative agenda on gender equality and women’s empowerment in order to create the future we want.

UN Women recognizes the role that the generation that was born in, or after, 1995 has to play. To facilitate youth engagement, strengthen initiatives for empowerment of young women, and develop young men as partners in gender equality and women’s rights, UN Women has developed a youth and gender equality strategy.

I also want to emphasize The Youth and Gender Equality Strategy’s “LEAPs” framework, which calls for strengthening young women’s Leadership, promoting Economic empowerment and skills development of young women, and Action to end violence against young women and girls. Additionally, it makes a case for promoting the Participation of young women and their organizations, Partnerships with young men in gender equality as well as intergenerational Partnerships throughout the lifecycle.

UN Women is also committed to creating a space for dialogue that is necessary to develop transformative strategies and perspectives on implementing Beijing and achieving gender equality by 2030. We would like to open a dialogue between youth advocates and Beijing “veterans,” also through the engagement of key constituencies, men and boys, faith-based organizations, indigenous groups, disability groups, LGBTIQ groups, social justice actors, the private sector and the media.

The importance of alliance-building in feminist advocacy and in political engagement, in order to both influence the international agenda and realize women’s and girls’ rights at the national level, has become urgent. New alliances with other social justice movements have become key to the realization of women’s rights.

Youth-Agreed Conclusions at the Youth CSW Forum

The “youth agreed conclusions” have been constituted, with a thorough analysis of the priority themes of CSW60, as well as a set of recommendations for governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society actors as well as other institutions and stakeholders. Such agreed conclusions would be guaranteed to be anchored in young people’s interests acting in their own authority and ensuring their meaningful participation in influencing the implementation of the SDGs.

I thank His Excellency Ambassador Patriota for being at this closing ceremony and receiving the “youth-agreed conclusions” from the hands of a youth and gender equality advocate.

I would also like to take the opportunity on behalf of UN Women and the Inter-agency Network would like to thank all the members of the Youth CSW Taskforce. 

I would like for all the members of the drafting committee to stand up, who have spent long nights, to create this much-awaited Declaration of the CSW Youth Forum.

I would also like to thank my civil society colleagues Houry, Beth and Victoria for making the Salvation Army available on day one.

Last but not least, I really need to thank my Senior Adviser, Ravi Karkara and his team: Ines, Dean, Rohit, Mariko, Allison and Saket.

The Youth CSW Forum has been a historic opportunity for young women and young men to come together to amplify their common concerns and advocacy efforts in advance of the commencement of the CSW official session. For the first time, “youth agreed conclusions” have been constituted, outlining a thorough analysis of the priority theme of CSW60.

The Forum has fostered collaboration and strategic networking among youth to strengthen their voices and leadership in the women’s movement and takes into account their diverse voices to highlight intersectional challenges and opportunities.

It is very important to follow through after CSW and expand CSW beyond the two weeks in New York—the implementation of these “youth-agreed conclusions.”

I encourage all of you to use CSW60 as a forum to link the agendas and accountability mechanisms of the SDGs to other commitments and agendas, such as peace and security, climate justice, migration— without ever losing focus on the Beijing Platform for Action.

Young women and young men must take a centre seat in achieving a planet that is equal and just. You, the youth—filled with capability—must be the drivers of change to achieve Planet 50-50 by 2030! I ask you to leave today with knowledge, tools and partnerships, and lead the change in your community that will create a society that is truly equal!

Thank you.