How can young people claim Equal Power Now?10 August 2023
This International Youth Day, Nyasha from Zimbabwe and Keiver from Colombia ask Plan International’s CEO, Stephen Omollo, how they can claim Equal Power Now.
Nyasha, 22, from Zimbabwe, and Keiver, 18, from Colombia are members of the Global Young Influencer Group which has co-created the Girls Get Equal campaign. They are currently addressing the barriers and pushbacks facing girls and young women when it comes to participating in politics.
This International Youth Day they have seized the opportunity to question Plan International’s CEO, Stephen Omollo on how they can further their aims and claim Equal Power Now!
“How do you, through your position as CEO connect with issues affecting girls to help them achieve Equal Power Now?”
“How do you promote the Girls Get Equal campaign from your position and how do you support youth-led action around it?”
Thank you Nyasha and Keiver for these questions which really get to the heart of how, from our positions of leadership, we can support young people to create a more equal world.
I am inspired by the way you have joined the Global Young Influencer Group with your peers from many countries to not only draw attention to the many challenges faced by girls, but also to advocate for practical solutions from your own experiences.
I also understand that you, Nyasha, are using your leadership skills to build a movement that actively gives other girls and young women the confidence to seize opportunities. This is very inspiring to me. What you are doing is so important in that as more girls and young women achieve their potential, this creates an unstoppable momentum where their empowerment becomes the norm.
And Keiver, I am very grateful for how you are setting an example to so many others that we will all stand to gain from a more equal world. As a young man, setting a positive example and keeping an open view of masculinity is so important in our work for gender equality.
This inspiration gives me the drive to cede power to young people. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it is also the fastest and most effective way to create real and sustainable change. As part of the Global Young Influencers Group you are both at the forefront of making our Girls Get Equal (GGE) campaign a reality. This campaign is critical to our organisation because it is the driving force that makes us re-think the way we function. It is GGE that helps us realise what youth-centredness truly means.
For me, supporting the empowerment of girls and young women to create change on their own terms is not about us leaving all advocacy and campaigning to young women. We must be the strongest partners and co-creators possible, providing allyship and support.
Ceding power and amplifying young voices!
So, what can I do as CEO of Plan International, the largest girls’ rights organisation in the world? Through the power of my mandate as CEO, I can support in several ways. I can actively promote and cede power in spaces where young women can and should have influence.
For example, at the recent Women Deliver conference in Kigali, a huge feminist development conference, a young Kenyan woman called Farida took the stage in my place as a main plenary speaker. What a powerful moment! I was so impressed by Farida and the whole delegation in Kigali.
Farida also set up a wonderfully successful education project during the COVID-19 pandemic when she realised that girls in areas of Mombasa were being deprived of their education entirely during the local lockdown. She collected schoolbooks and set up study circles where hundreds of girls re-engaged with learning.
Farida was able to tell this story and give concrete policy recommendations for girls in crisis – which was an incredibly powerful contribution to the debate.
As CEO, I commit to providing support to GGE champions who are doing wonderful things in many countries. For example, in Indonesia the GGE campaign is mobilising to increase young women’s participation in elections. Also, in Sierra Leone, champions are mobilising a campaign
My commitment is to use my power and my position of influence to support these youth-led movements for change. I will support their calls to action, and when I have the opportunity, advocate their messages to power-holders to accelerate change.
Stephen’s questions for the young influencers
I would like to hear from you both about your experiences. How do you inspire fellow young people to take action, and believe in their power to make change?
Nyasha, I know you have inspired many other girls and young women to believe in their potential in the workplace or in setting up businesses; and Keiver, you have enabled young men and boys to share your dream of gender equality despite the pressures of masculinity.
What made the biggest impact for both of you in mobilising your peers to take action?
There is power in working in numbers when it comes to advocacy. I’m a strong believer in not working in silos but rather supporting group interventions, for example engaging in forums with other CSO’s, dialogue meetings with duty bearers/authorities. It’s also a good idea to create partnerships with well-established institutions for risk sharing, resource mobilisation and development of new ideas.
To inspire other young people, I believe the key is interacting with inspiring leaders that believe in the power of youth and help mobilise them under a shared vision. Constantly visiting offices of influence for instance, local authorities, parliaments, and provincial district offices among others are essential in achieving the objective of shared vision amongst young people, women and girls.
Digital platforms are essential tools for reaching out to and inspiring our peers. They help us mobilise support, spread our message, and influence positive change. With these platforms, we can empower women and girls to become financially independent, breaking the cycle of abuse and dependency.
I believe all together we can make a real impact in our fight for gender equality and equal rights for all!
I think it’s essential to recognise the impact of showing leadership within our closest social circles. While it’s great to aim for a global audience, starting by sharing our work with those closest to us can be incredibly powerful. As a male ally supporting the campaign for girls’ rights, inspiring your male friends and colleagues is a meaningful step towards driving positive change.
I’ve found that sharing all the content I create and produce for the campaign with them has been rewarding. They read it, see the effort I put in, and genuinely congratulate me for the work being done. In the end it’s all about taking ownership of our responsibility as male activists, working closely with girl-led groups, and taking a moment to be proud of the contributions we make towards gender equality and girls’ rights.