“Young women and men represent a huge potential resource as agents of change” — Lakshmi Puri

Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the launch of the United Nations World Youth Report on 15 July in New York.

Date: Friday, July 15, 2016

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H.E. Mr. Mohamed Khaled Khiari,
Distinguished young women and young men leaders,
Guests and colleagues,

Let me begin by thanking the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs for the extraordinary work that has gone into producing such an extensive report on a very critical topic. Youth civic engagement has risen to the forefront of many discussions as there is growing awareness of the vast potential that lies in empowered young women and men. And as the world faces many interconnected challenges, including in economic, food, energy, environmental and other crises, young women and men represent a huge potential resource as agents of change for advancing peace and security, development, human rights and gender equality.

The World Youth Report has highlighted several barriers faced by young men and women in political, economic, cultural and social spheres including limited access to decision-making, entry into, and success in, the labor force, and engagement within their communities.  While the statistics state that for many countries unemployment has decreased, the labour market continues to expand, and great gains have been made in education. Young women remain the most vulnerable demographic and continue to face significant barriers to engagement. Therefore, it is important to address and unpack the cultural barriers that make it twice as hard for young women to become actively engaged both politically and economically. Yet, given all of these facts, young women remain burdened by social and cultural barriers. Today, the world has the largest youth population ever, with 1.8 billion young women and men across the planet; 1.8 billion youth is a demographic fact that cannot be ignored! We need to look at this youth bulge as a youth opportunity. Nine-hundred million young women remain untapped resources to engage with in the implementation of SDGs. Investing in youth civic engagement will not only create a movement, but momentum for achieving social transformation and a human rights based society.

UN Women remains committed to supporting youth civic engagement in all spheres – political, economic and community.  

To solidify UN Women’s commitment to actively engaging young women and men as partners in gender equality, we have recently launched UN Women’s youth strategy.

Our Youth and Gender Equality Strategy highlights The “LEAPs” framework which calls upon:

  • Strengthening young women’s Leadership; this calls for young women leadership in civic engagement
  • Promoting Economic empowerment and skills development of young women; - we need to support developing civic engagement skills for and with young women and men to achieve gender equality
  • Fostering Action to end violence against young women and girls. We need to create safe and enabling environment both online and offline for young women to assert their human rights and actively patriate in their communities. g. We partner with WAGGFs to create Voices against Violence curriculum for girls and young women.
  • Additionally, it makes a case for promoting Partnerships with young women and their organizations, as well as partnering with young men in gender equality. Last, but not least, it invites intergenerational partnership to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

This was demonstrated with the convening of the first ever Youth Forum at CSW60 in March 2016 where over 300 youth participated and brought their voices and engagement into achievement of gender equality and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Youth CSW Declaration on Gender Equality and the Human Rights of Young Women and Girls, presented to the Chair of CSW60, Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, urged Member States to ensure a gender-just and youth-accountable implementation of the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Additionally, at CSW60, the Commission recognized the relevance of women’s effective and meaningful participation and need for equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in public and private sectors, and public political, social and economic life, and in all areas of sustainable development.  It also recognized that it is essential to ensure that young women, including rural young women and young indigenous young women, are empowered to effectively and meaningfully participate in leadership and decision-making processes.

UN Women’s online platform Empower Women aims at stimulating Economic Engagement among young women across the globe. Even when young women overcome many academic obstacles, they are later faced with lack of access to experience, networks and capital which prevents them from succeeding in the labour markets. Empower Women has created a space where young women can join a network of dynamic individuals who support and mentor them in their endeavors.

UN Women’s programming around the world has leveraged our limited resources to keep youth central to our work on political, economic and community engagement towards a planet 5050.

For example, ICT Centers in Parwan, Afghanistan train young women in English language and computer skills, and provide job placement support. This program helps young women graduates of secondary school who do not get a spot at government university/college nor can afford tuition at a private institution to get skills and find work.

UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality supports a project in Sri Lanka to train 1300 low-income young women (16-24 years old) who have dropped out of secondary school get non-traditional skills aimed towards market-needs. These young women got vocational training or apprenticeships in sectors such as IT, masonry, quality control in garment industry, etc. Just to name a few.

In closing I want to reiterate that we must support youth civic engagement at every level. Youth are leaders today!

I thank you!!