A cohort of young activists and leaders from MenEngage Alliance joined hundreds of youth voices at the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) in New York and through virtual participation last month.
Although spaces were carved out for youth at CSW67, MenEngage Alliance shares and elevates the concerns that it was not a safe space – particularly for LGBTQI youth.
Spaces for youth voices at this year’s CSW
Interactive Youth Dialogue
CSW67 saw the first ever official Interactive Youth Dialogue. This space brought together Member States, UN Agencies and Civil Society youth leaders to influence the agenda at CSW—including the priority theme around technology and the digital world— from a youth perspective.
Nyasha Sithole, Programs Officer & Youth focal point at the Global Secretariat of MenEngage Alliance delivered an oral statement on behalf of the MenEngage Youth Reference Group—and all youth members and activists across MenEngage—with the following remarks:
As the Youth within MenEngage Alliance, in all our diversity, we are excited to be part of the first ever Interactive Youth Dialogue during this CSW67. We acknowledge the space and the opportunity to be here.
Our daily lived realities and experiences are being shaped by the rapid pace and scope of technological changes. These changes have enabled digital social mobilization towards global social change issues including #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.
Whilst we recognise this enabling environment, it has also come at a cost for us as we have been exposed to increasing digital misogyny, online violence, and gendered digital divide as more and more young people are being left behind.
Our advocacy and what we stand for has become more visible but also more of a target of digital backlash from anti-rights, including men’s rights and misogynistic groups, that continue to use digital online spaces to organize, mobilize and conduct attacks and violence against girls and women both online and offline.
As Youth leaders within MenEngage Alliance, and the community at large, we recognize and acknowledge the leadership and power of young people to lead the way on a radical transformative agenda to advance women’s rights and gender justice for all and in being accountable to the feminist movement. Therefore with such a commitment we recommend the following to ensure digital technology steers us towards achieving gender equality:
- Attention to the Manosphere – This means paying attention to the rapid growth of sexism, misogyny and male supremacy which often justifies and even glorifies violence against women and girls in online spaces. We must unpack the role of information and communication technologies in maintaining patriarchal norms that socialize boys and young men to serve patriarchal interests.
- Countering the digital backlash: This can be done through targeted efforts including communications campaigns targeting men and boys to desensitize on patriarchal violence and counter the stereotypical representations of violence online.
- Legal frame and support: This means investing in developing national protocols with clear steps to dealing with online human rights violations, bullying and violence. Include extensive community and country level oversight with a focus on accountability.
- Establish support systems: for women and girls survivors of gender based threats and verbal/written and visual attacks, as well as for mechanisms for holding men and boys perpetrators of digital violence accountable. And finally, promote and enforce social and legal norms for responsible use of digital platforms and for making them safe, effective and inclusive.
CSW67 Youth Forum
The CSW67 Youth Forum, co-organised by UN Women with input from young leaders, brought together youth leaders—in all their diversities—as a space to share the Global Youth Recommendations with policy makers. The dialogue space allowed the exchange of ideas on advancing the voices of young people in the CSW proceedings. The space was also used to discuss the engagement of young people in country delegations to the CSW and how best to collaborate and ensure the youth recommendations are not left behind.
Photo: Nyasha Sithole, Programs Officer of MenEngage Alliance speaking at the Interactive Youth Dialogue of CSW67