By September 10, 2013 Read More →

Youth Lead the Way to Break the Cycle of Violence Against Women and Children

The first-ever DPI briefing led by Youth Representatives was held at the North Lawn Building at the UN Headquarters on Monday, March 25. Keeping with the theme of the recently concluded CSW57, the briefing was titled ‘Raising and Empowering Youth to Break the Cycle of Violence Against Women and Children.’

Ahmad Alhendawi, the first ever Envoy on Youth appointed by a United Nation’s Secretary-General in February 2013, began by stressing the complexity of issues faced by 90% of the world’s youth population living in developing countries. Asking the youth in the audience to count on him as ‘your (their) man’, he said that his office was established to bring the voices of youth to the United Nations. Among the identified focus areas for his term, he has laid special attention on employment and civic participation issues, while supporting the global education initiative. The post 2015 developmental agenda required consultation at all levels- national, international and civil, he said. Youth should not only be consulted to develop this agenda, but their aspirations and challenges should be addressed in the outcomes. This agenda, he said ‘is not a wish-list. It is a shared commitment.’

Katrina Martinez, Youth Representative for the Association for Trauma Outreach and Prevention, thanked the NGO relations office for supporting the Youth Representatives initiative and allowing youth to bring their unique creativity to the table. Access to internet gives anyone the potential to be powerful citizen journalist and create viral ripples. In is important for our generation to face the dangers of gender based violence and eradicate them, or else we will only be passing them on to future generations to resolve, she said. She also shared the importance of subtle conscious actions to change the consciousness of the mind- such as together with some of her colleagues, she decided to wear green today as it is color of the heart chakra.

Quintin Walcott, Co-Executive Director of ConnectNYC, began by sharing experiences from his work in the field. It was found that child abuse and neglect was in a majority of cases a direct consequence of domestic abuse. He said that due to lack of willingness of victims to reach out to support providers, as well as a history of victims not being given the required support by these agencies, faith institutions for many was the first step into seeking safety and sanctuary. However, these institutions due to their beliefs and desire to preserve the families, were not able to provide practical tools. In many neighborhoods, it was also found that in putting an end of domestic violence, men were held back by other men in their community. ConnectNYC works with young girls and victims to empower them with the right tools and prevent situations of violence. Also, engaging young men and boys in schools to understand their perspective and introducing ideas of gender equality and non-violence. In engaging older men, he said, it was important to make a connection between the oppression faced by men due to their race/ethnicity in the work place and the violence they committed on their spouses at home.

Brigitte A. Watson from Legal Momentum, talked about their work in policy making, legislation and public education to empower young girls. Every girl has the right to well paying job and a work place and home free of gender based abuse, she said. Challenging present systems to provide equal opportunities for girls right from primary schools is important. Seeing the family as a whole, it is also every state’s responsibility to provide child care support so new mothers may have equal access to employment opportunities.

The group was then led into an interactive activity by Youth Representatives Kamila Jacob and Tevia Clarke. Statements such as ‘there were more than 50 books in my home growing up’ were presented and those who agreed, were asked to stand and those who said no remained seated. The audience was given a chance to look around the room to see who stood by them with regard to the statement made. Statements questioned equality of men and women, presence of women in leadership roles, domestic violence, trust in institutions such as the police and courts, personal experiences of discrimination and more. The activity provided a much greater insight into our personal experiences and thought processes. It was much appreciated by all.

During a very lively and interactive Q&A, responding to a question put forward by the Youth Representative of the Brahma Kumaris, Mr. Walcott shared on the process for faith institutions involving youth in their processes of addressing issues of violence against women. He shared a 4Cs approach:

1) Courage to have the conversation: Men in society often have to give up positions of privilege to acknowledge and talk about the issue of VAW.

2) Creativity: Going where the young people are to engage them in the dialogue through use of creative language and media, such as social media and video games.

3) Creating Spaces: For men and communities to have this conversation. Studying and using the community organization model.

4) Consistency: in the message we share as well as in carrying on the conversation and being present.

Ms. Watson shared that when working with faith institutions, Legal Momentum finds common ground: Human Rights, which do not change definition with our beliefs.

The briefing was a very concrete step forward in providing youth platforms to lead the way to change. We applaud the DPI NGO Relations office on this successful endeavor, as well as the youth representatives who led by example to organize this commendable briefing.

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