By Kuraish Nathaneal Mubiru
Young people from around the world joined thousands of delegates from governments, civil society, and UN agencies in New York in March for the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63). Several young activists from MenEngage Alliance attended the event to share their insights and experiences as young people standing up for social justice.
Kuraish Nathaneal Mubiru, Executive Director of Uganda Young Positives (UYP), is one of the young activists who joined CSW63 as a representative of MenEngage Africa. In this article, Kuraish shares his experience, and reports on the discussions around a common set of guidelines to inform policy makers around the world.
(Pictured above from left to right: Nadege Uwase Munyaburanga, Kigali Hope Foundation; Madelynn Bovasso, Advocates for Youth; Kuraish Mubiro, Young Positives; Cynthia Cordero, Puntos de Encuentro; Sinead Nolan; MenEngage Alliance Global Secretariat)
This year’s CSW began for me with the Pre-CSW63 Youth Dialogue, an “opportunity for young people to better engage with policymakers, UN entities, and other CSOs present at CSW” (UN Women). In particular, the opening session of the Youth Dialogue was an important opportunity to connect and interact with young activists and partners from different countries, and meet with different organizations and people from various global networks. Having read about the work of many individuals and organizations online, this was an exciting chance to meet them in person.
CSW63 was a critical meeting for many reasons. Firstly, it was a real test of the 2030 agenda, and a chance to hold member states to account for their commitments to gender equality. As the focus of CSW63 was ‘social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls’, the Youth Dialogue provided a chance for youth voices to be heard and considered. It was a significant opportunity to revitalize CSW as a meaningful forum for youth voices to be heard in dialogues to advance gender equality, the rights and empowerment of all women and girls, and human rights in general.
I felt that youth voices at CSW63 cut across developed and developing countries, in a way that has created a new dynamic and a broader range of stakeholders engaging on cross-cutting issues. I personally hope the representation of youth voices continues to increase at future CSW Sessions.
The UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mohammed, addressed the Youth Dialogue and emphasized the role that younger activists and advocates have to play in achieving a world where social protection is granted and gender equality is realized. Remarkable young speakers from around the world also had the opportunity to take the podium and share experiences relating to social protection, public service and sustainable infrastructure from their own countries.
Five different break-out groups were then created to discuss the youth perspective on five common minimum standards that could be used to inform policy makers at the UN and around the world:
Ensuring meaningful youth participation in policy making.
This was the break-out session in which I personally participated. The group discussed and agreed that in order to advance gender equality and ensure no one is left behind, we must recognize that young people and their knowledge and expertise should be included in the design, implementation and evaluation of all policy and strategy decisions. We therefore urged governments to ensure the common minimum standards, which included actions such as equipping youth with the skills to meaningfully participate in decision-making fora, and ensuring young people – in all their diversity – are meaningfully consulted and represented in leadership and decision-making processes at all levels. The standards, which can be read in full here, also call on member states to reduce the minimum age to hold public office.
Simultaneously, the other groups at the Youth Dialogue discussed the other four standards: Social Protection; Public Services; Sustainable Infrastructure; Technology and its link to social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure.
As we move closer to CSW64 in 2020 – a landmark year, 25 years on from the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – from my own CSW experience, I believe that these common minimum standards can create greater impacts on the lives of young people across the globe if Member States take them seriously in prioritizing and implementing them.
For me personally, being at the UN in NewYork was a dream come true. As well as it being my first time in the USA, I was extremely excited to be involved in this international policy space. Fortunately, MenEngage Alliance is a network that resources youth delegates as part of an official delegation. I am proud to have been part of the MenEngage Africa delegation, taking a progressive stand to advance women’s human rights and gender equality, and working constructively with others to achieve this.
Kuraish Nathaneal Mubiru is Executive Director of Uganda Young Positives (UYP). Having been involved in youth activism for more than eight years, Kuraish has led youth-focussed SRHR programmes working to combat HIV and AIDS at national and regional levels. Kuraish is currently working with The Infectious Diseases Insititute, Kampala and Rand Corporation, USA to pilot a possible intervention to empower people living with HIV as prevention advocates. Kuraish holds a BSc in Records and Archives Management from Makerere University, Kampala and a certificate in Bio Ethics and Human Subject from the School of Public Health Makerere.