Young people can hold governments to account on VAW

Young people should play a leading role in ending violence against women & girls (VAWG). Restless Development Accountability Advocate Raf explains how they're working to hold governments to account...

If all 1.8 billion young people around the world had the power to hold their governments to account and have their voices heard, what would change? What would the world look like?

Restless Development and their Youth Power campaign argues that we would see a world without poverty, inequality and climate change. As Accountability Advocates, we believe strongly that every young person has the capacity to effect change and hold governments accountable for their promises and actions (or inactions, which is often the case). The UK Accountability Advocates team is working on monitoring the implementation of the Global Goals; a nifty set of 17 goals designed by the UN to end poverty, protect the oceans and environment, create just and fair institutions, and achieve gender equality by 2030 (to name a few of the goals).

For the Global Goals, or Sustainable Development Goals to work,every government that has signed up to the implementation of the goals needs to start working now. For gender equality (Goal 5) to be achieved, each government must stop turning a blind eye to violence against women, turn their words into actions, start making difficult decisions and commence with the real work.

This is where we come in. As a group of three young people, the UK team is dedicated to making sure that the UK government holds its promises to Goal 5, with a focus on ending all forms of violence against women (VAWG) including harmful practices such as FGM and forced marriage.

We are firm believers that a key way to end this violence is through education, which is why we are also passionate about Compulsory Sex Education for all people living in the UK. How do we do that though?

How are three young people supposed to successfully ensure that the 6 million women in the UK who have experienced sexual violence never have to experience it again, or that FGM is consigned to the past? First of all, we don’t do it alone. We are among many youth-led organisations that are passionate about ending VAWG, one of which being Youth for Change. Secondly, we do a whole lot of data collection. Why this is important and why it makes a difference is detailed below.

The Restless Development Accountability Advocates

The Restless Development Accountability Advocates

We spent all of last year creating a National Accountability Framework gathering data on our chosen specialities, and outlining how we intend to use that data to hold the government to account. As mentioned earlier, a strong component of our work hinges on the UK having compulsory SRE, as a specific target for achieving gender equality is

ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.

But when you look at the indicators that measure this target, there is nothing on sex education. How can there be universal access to SRHR and education if there is no compulsory sex education? So we decided to start collecting our own data and prove to the government that the current state of sex education is not sufficient and that something needs to change.

To do this, we created a complementary indicator to determine the proportion of 15 - 25 year olds that were satisfied with their experience of Sexual and Reproductive Education (SRE), gathering the data through a survey that can now be used to not only prove that only 18% of young people are satisfied with their experience of SRE, but also highlighting key issues with the current state of sex education and areas that must be improved upon. We received over 300 responses from young people all around the country, proving that when given a chance to have their voice heard and their opinions listened to, young people are more than willing to engage with such issues. It also shows how effective youth-friendly data collection methods can be in engaging young people with high-level decision making.

Imagine if we collected this data on a bigger scale; with a bigger sample size and had more time? The UK government and the other governments of the world need to realise that young people have so much potential in making these goals a reality and need to create platforms through which we as young citizens can lead the way in both the implementation and accountability of the goals.

Through our work, we have not only shown how passionate we, as young people, are about bringing positive change through accountability but how serious we are in making sure promises are kept. However we still have a long way to go in raising more awareness of issues like FGM; creating more initiatives that place young at the heart of decision making and collecting more focused data that takes into account individual difference so that we literally “Leave no one behind” …..