#WhatNext? Youth For Change at #CYF2015

Between 21st -25th November, our Bangladesh and Tanzania teams represented Youth For Change at the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2015. It was our chance to join with many other inspirational young people to influence the crucial global work of the Commonwealth on development & rights. Now the dust has settled, Aristarick reflects on the week and asks the crucial question: #Whatnext?

With 53 member states, The Commonwealth of Nations, popularly known as the Commonwealth was established under London Declaration in the year 1949.  This is an international organization of countries which mostly were part of the British Empire. 

60% of the Commonwealth population is estimated to be people under the age of 30 years.  There came a need for Commonwealth to see the importance of hearing their voices and to set Youth Forum as part of the Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting (CHOGM).

It was a great honor to participate in the world largest youth led forum, which brought together youths from different countries discussing matters affecting themselves. It was an opportunity to me not only as a Tanzanian youth but also a great exposure in my career as an international relations student to the world of diplomacy.

The 10th Commonwealth Youth Forum had great meaning to me looking at the unity of the people in their diversity which is really something interesting. Most of the countries which are in commonwealth are developing countries, full of natural resources and yet facing 21st Century with a number of challenges.

Starting from political, social, economical and environmental challenges, global efforts are needed in looking for a way forward.

According to Tanzania Human Rights Report, 2014:174)., Gender-based violence (GBV), women and spousal battery, sexual violence and harassment, Female Genital Mutilation and Child early and forced marriage are still prevailing day after day in Tanzania.  Through CYF2015 our voices and the communiqué which was presented to the government officials our voices were heard and actions will be taken right away.

The commonwealth came at the critical moment where the whole world is thinking of the Global goals. I am keen to hear commitments which will be made and the implementation. I was so excited to get an opportunity to give reflection on the SDGs and the Commonwealth charter (Article XII – Gender equality), discussing why it is important for gender equality to be embedded in these frameworks.

I was among the panelists in the plenary session on Article XII of the Commonwealth Charter, where I got airtime to speak about gender equality and more specifically on child marriage in developing countries and Youth For Change. In fact, my personal story got attention of the audience for some minutes.

Watch part of it in the video by Royal Commonwealth Society here.

Issues discussed ranged from social, political, economical and environmental arena. I had more interest on social and political agenda. Issues like access to quality education, health services and jobs are really important and had special attention.

One of the recommendation made in the political agenda to the heads of government was pledging all governments to create and implement laws and policies, which will end all form of gender based violence which indeed include FGM and child early and forced marriage.

We had also inspirational speeches from great leaders like Maltese Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Joseph Muscat emphasizing on the power of young people. “Don’t be afraid to come up with outrageous ideas.

“Don’t hide from provocative debates. We expect this sort of energy from young people, and I am confident that you will use this forum to push through an ambitious agenda.”
— Dr Joseph Muscat

Youth representatives and activists speeches had great impact to my life. CYF side events including the workshop and launching of the Commonwealth Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN), designed to upscale and optimize grassroots effort to combat violent extremism of all forms and to expand peace building.

Meeting Jolly and Maisha from Youth For Change Bangladesh was indeed amazing and they are so very much inspiring. In fact, I had received a very lovely gift from Bangladesh!

In her speech, Ms. Gulalai Ismail, The Commonwealth Asia Youth Award Winner 2015 urged youth delegates, “Believe in your dreams. Not because you can change the world, but because you have to change the world.”

#WhatNext?

The fight isn't over - it's just beginning. #WhatNext? We need to go home to our countries and continue battling to ensure that child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are at the top of the policy agenda. We need to work with our peers to change attitudes - bring other young people on board.

We need to persuade community & religious leaders, polocy makers and our peers that improving the situation for girls isn't just good fir girls - it's good for everyone.

Most of all, we need to maintain our belief that young people can, and will change the world!

Read the rest of our Commonwealth Youth Forum stories here.

Catch up on more of the action from the Commonwealth Youth Forum here.