The Women Deliver Conference 2019: A Youth Leaders’ Guide

This blog is written by youth leaders from the Youth Leaders for Nutrition (YL4N) programme.

The YL4N programme has been an amazing platform for us as youth advocates to harness the power we have and use it to create positive change, especially in the realm of nutrition. Over the last year, we’ve been given sessions to improve our skills and provided with guidance. We were also presented with opportunities to participate in events where we could ‘power-up’ as advocates.

This blog highlights our experiences earlier this month at the power-packed Women Deliver conference.

Youth Leaders for Nutrition (from left): Florence Sibomana, Rwanda; Jane Napias, Kenya; Hanitranirina Rarison, Madagascar; Barsha Bhattarai, Nepal; Jade Delgado, Philippines, Anayat Sidhu, Canada; Ummy Mwabondo, Tanzania

Jane on the Conference Panels

Throughout the Women Deliver conference, young people were encouraged to take the lead, and we at YL4N were definitely not left behind. It was a remarkable experience to participate in three different side events during the conference.

During the official YL4N side event, which was planned and spearheaded by us youth leaders, we emphasised the importance of involving young people in nutrition advocacy and how nutrition is a cross cutting issue relating to other areas, like child marriage and teen pregnancy. Ana and Jade led the panel sessions as moderators, with the rest of us youth leaders as the panelists.

Barsha and I also participated in the panel entitled ‘Ending child marriage with the power to hold power to account’,  which was hosted by Save the Children. Barsha started the session with her inspiring poem called ‘Colors’, about child abuse and power dynamics. Through the event we were able to deliver key messages –including giving young people a voice by providing us a space where we could share our thoughts and the importance of data to address issues like child marriage.

Ana and Jane were among the panelists at the side event ’How She Leads: Past, present and future”, which was hosted by Nutrition International. It was there that they emphasised the importance of addressing malnutrition and including young people in the process.

Florence took the youth lead at the event organised by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement where she was able to share how she’s working with the youth in Rwanda. She also talked about what the other youth leaders are doing in their respective countries.

Barsha on Booth-Hopping

One of the exciting moments of the conference was being a booth visitor. All the booths were not only eye-catching but informative. Most of them focused on gender issues, women’s empowerment, sexual and reproductive health right, nutrition issues and investment for girls.

The youth zone near the booths was a space for people to share their views and key messages through different mediums, such as painting, social media and even temporary tattoos. It was a chance for us to hang out, meet young people from other countries and learn about their advocacy.

I also got the chance to visit the film festival which showcased short films featuring different issues concerning women.

It was a certainly a different experience from other conferences I have attended. It was so fun roaming around the booths with my fellow youth leaders, collecting goodies and at the same time learning about what different organisations do, how they engage the youth and how youth advocates like us can help them to tackle different issues.

Florence on Meeting Partners

The Conference has been another amazing opportunity to meet inspiring leaders with a great passion to empower, engage and support young people.

The really important day started with meeting Gerda Verburg, the UN Assistant Secretary-General and SUN Movement Coordinator. We youth advocates got the chance to share our experiences in our nutrition advocacy work and the progress of our campaigns.

The talk with Gerda was so inspiring, especially when she mentioned that she recognises the big impact of engaging young people. She expressed how inspired she was by the participation of youth leaders in the global platform. She said she is eager to encourage networks other than SUN to include the voice of young people. She encouraged us young people to live purposeful lives that accept responsibility, and to stand with courage.

The day closed with meeting Joel Spicer, President and CEO at Nutrition International. He talked about what Nutrition International is doing in terms of nutrition education and advocacy, and food supplementation. He, too, acknowledged the role of young people and believes in their potential.

Both of the amazing individuals we had the opportunity of meeting were committed to empowering and involving young people.

Jade on the Conference Opening and Closing

Throughout the Women Deliver Conference, I realised that there was a common feeling that resonated with everyone: an overflowing sense of power. Despite how overwhelmed people were with what the conference had to offer – all the plenaries, booths and side events – that power did not waiver. Proof of this is how pumped everyone was to learn, unlearn and relearn during the opening, and how driven people still were to take action during the closing plenary.

We were welcomed to the conference by a power-packed launch, with the highlight being the panel with speakers such as President Sahle Work-Zewde of Ethiopia; President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya;  President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; NewNow leader and environmental activist Farwiza Farhan;  Dr Alaa Murabit, UN High-Level Commissioner on  Health, Employment and& Economic Growth; and Natasha Mwansa, Children’s, Youth and Women’s Rights Activist/Advocate, Media Network on Child Rights and Development. The panel emphasised how each of us has power. And despite its varied forms – soft, hard, big, small – we all have to grab, embrace and use our power to create a positive impact.

We youth leaders were most inspired by the only young person in the panel, Natasha Mwansa, who with utmost conviction perfectly captured what the youth of the world want people to hear. She emphasised the importance of not just listening to young people but involving and empowering them to take action themselves.

The closing was a time for celebration – the perfect conclusion to days of empowering and being empowered. The pledges made on the Women Deliver stage proved that everyone was ready to fly home, make use of what they’ve learned and take action. The First Lady of Canada, Sophie Trudeau, summarised it best when she said, “The end of this conference is only the beginning of the journey to make this world a better place for girls and women.”

 

With everything we’ve learned and all the things that inspired us, during the conference, we Youth Leaders are more driven than ever to continue with our campaigns and create the change we want in our respective communities.

The conference highlighted how the power within is so much stronger when concerted with the power of others. It showed how individual power can grew to become the power of many. From the power of us to the power of all.

The Youth Leaders for Nutrition programme is supported by the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Network, RESULTS UK, ACTION, Global Citizen and Save the Children.

 

 

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