Delegate blogs

Group at WCY 2014The WAGGGS delegates were selected for the World Conference on Youth as they are experts in the post-2015 development process.

Hear what they have to say about progress for girls and young women through thematic blogs below.

If you would like to comment on an issue they raise or have a question to ask, why not tweet @WAGGGSDelegates and they'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Reflections on The World Conference on Youth

Petra Stipanic - Slovenia - 16/05/2014

 The past few days in Sri Lanka were very intense but we managed to produce a very important document that will be part of negotiations at United Nations (UN) and a consensus between UN countries and a reflection of the ideas and needs of young people today. The most important part of the Colombo Declaration on Youth is its Annex (, this is a compiled document of discussions at the round tables on the conference and it shows what do young people thing about the world we want in the future!

I was leading the session on Realising Access to Quality Education and I would like to stress out a few points that are in the annex and and very relevant for our work as guides. Education is indeed by far the top priority of global youth, according to votes expressed within the MY World Survey, which comes from 70% of youth under 30 years of age, regardless of their education level and gender. The participants in the conference believe that:

'All young people must have access to quality education on an equal footing. Specific measures have to be taken to ensure that vulnerable and marginalised groups of children and young people can access and complete education of the highest quality, in particular girls and young women, all the marginalized youth including most at risk young people,taking into account the particular socio-economic and cultural realities in which young people find themselves.Education outside formal settings (non-formal education and peer learning) is key to ensure a rounded and holistic education is provided to young people through participatory and experiential learning methods in youth-led organisations. Opportunities to engage in volunteer activities, to provide many possibilities for skills learning can play an important role in stimulating or reinforcing civic engagement as well as lifelong learning. Civic participation can help to improve links and coherence between education, training and labour opportunities. Non-formal education must be recognised in legislation and lead to certification when appropriate. Special attention should also be given to the vocational and professional training, thereby allocating more funds by governments to improve these trainings as an effective alternative to the traditional university system.'

The conference was a place where a lot of intelligent young people with a clear vision of the post 2015 development agenda met and exchanged good practises and solutions for the future. It was the most challenging conference I have ever attended and in a lot of ways it took me out of my normal thinking on education and broaden my horizons. I am happy I was part of this process. 

Looking Back At Gender Equality

Pippa Gardner - UK - 9/5/2014

This speech was delivered to the Gender Equality session on the 7th May. 

Before I left to come to the World Conference on Youth in Sri Lanka, I was speaking to a newspaper reporter. He said to me "gender equality is a great thing for women, but I don't see how it's relevant to everyone and other development issues."

I went on to explain how gender equality is a cross cutting issue, effecting everything from sustainable energy to education, but I think this highlights where we have got to so far. People have understood that the principle of gender equality improves the lives of women. MDG 3, achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women, has firmly put this subject on the table in development discussions. Though perhaps not everyone knows how to implement it, some don't want to implement it, and it's not been fully integrated into other development issues.

Up to now, we haven't addressed succinctly how gender equality can improve the lives of everyone regardless of gender identity, how to address the root causes of these inequalities, and how we can mainstream it through other issues whilst maintaining it as a goal in itself. It is relevant to education, it is relevant to energy, to food security, to health and more. The MDGs went a little way towards mainstreaming gender equality, with gender based indicators across education and other goals - but to be truly mainstreamed there is still more to do. I was reading through the issue briefs for this event and there are notable cases, such as the one on full employment and entrepreneurship, where the effects of gender identity aren't considered or it's given just a name check. Adding men and women, girls and boys to a sentence isn't what mainstreaming is all about, but this has been taken as an easy approach across various policy making settings. We need to consider how issues manifest themselves differently for people dependent on their gender identities. The growth and employment consultation, as raised in the UN Women paper, highlights discrimination in accessing labour markets and variations in wages on the basis of gender identity. Talking about how we tackle these inequalities is how we can truly mainstream gender.

The issue of gender based violence was also a key area missing from the MDGs. The countries most likely to miss the targets are those involved in conflict or post conflict situations and women and young people are disproportionately victims of violence. Specific consideration needs to be given to peace and reconciliation in a future development agenda, and we need to involve women and young people, as the disproportionate victims, in peace building processes and in the commissioning of services related to sexual and domestic violence. Empowerment of women is too often being read as the disempowerment of men, gender equality does not mean that. Intimate partner violence, sexual violence, these are gendered issues that really need everybody, regardless of gender identity, on board in order to truly eliminate them.

The MDG on education has succeeded in bringing enrolments rates of girls closer to those of boys in primary education, but are these just numbers? We need to invest in the quality of the education being provided and look beyond to secondary, tertiary, non-formal education and lifelong learning to understand how we can create education systems that support young people and adults to gain knowledge and skills, not just the youngest children, and to do this with gender sensitive facilities and curricula.

We have made a lot of agreements in the past. The Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, these all have a role to play. They aren't universal. There are countries that haven't ratified some of these agreements. There are plenty of cases where it hasn't been enacted. They are a tool that we can use, to build upon and to be bolder about our hopes and dreams going forward. But we must not forget to consider how these aims will be achieved.

The MDGs were successful in capturing the imagination of those who had to be involved in their realisation. The 8 goals could be remembered the world over. They went beyond "UN speak" and we must think about this again for the post 2015 agenda.

Civil society have been critical to achieving progress in gender equality so far and will continue to be so with any future development agenda. My organisation, the world association of girl guides and Girl Scouts, and other youth organisations have been approaching the subject of gender equality, not as a nation state, but nevertheless a fundamental partner in development. The programmes that Girl guides and Girl Scouts deliver enable girls and young women to become powerful agents of development in their local communities, in their countries and through international platforms.

MDGs weren't seen as relevant to every country - my own, the uk, probably won't meet the goal of gender equality, we have too few women in parliament. But the government don't feel under pressure to act - people in the uk see the mDGs as goals for other countries, yet they are still aspirational for us and we should want to meet them too. This needs to change in the future agenda - all countries still have problems and can still improve the lives of their citizens. We should all feel ownership of the goals and a responsibility to make them a reality - something that perhaps the MDGs have not delivered in all countries.

My task for participants in the Gender Equality strand of the conference - to have thoughtful conversations about gender inequalities in the specific breakout sessions. But also to keep thinking about gendered issues when at various other themes each afternoon - by talking about gender equality outside of discussions specifically on that topic will enable us to go beyond what the MDGs have achieved so far.

My Experience of The World Conference on Youth

Hilary Clauson - Canada - 8/5/2014

Sri Lanka is known as the Pearl of Asia and is the first Asian country to host the World Conference on Youth. The last such conference was in Mexico in 2010. This year, 1,500 youth and government representatives have come together in Colombo to discuss the theme, “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”

We have reached a crucial moment in the post-2015 development agenda process. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are set to “expire” in 2015, yet much work remains to be done. We will fall short on some of the eight goals, like achieving gender equality, reducing maternal mortality, and arresting environmental degradation. Instead of being a failure, however, the MDGs have galvanized the world, led by the United Nations, to set post-2015 goals even more ambitious than the MDGs.

At the conference’s Opening Ceremony, President of the United Nations General Assembly John Ashe urged youth to play a central role in the setting of the next agenda. Unfortunately, the MDGs were set by a small group from the global north behind closed doors. While post-2015 has been a more inclusive process thus far, youth must not be complacent. We must seize every opportunity to have our voices heard and ensure the interests of youth are “mainstreamed,” or captured in every goal.

WAGGGS delegates are in Colombo to advocate for a development agenda that maximizes girls and young women’s roles in development and advances their rights.

During the conference, I am staying at a hotel that overlooks the ocean, grey-green and framed by gently waving palm trees. It is a beautiful, peaceful view and it reminds me that the same water touches my country and surrounds all of the continents. The world is one place and youth, even in our great diversity, can have one voice to ensure the rights of current and future generations of young people are protected and advanced.

Current Challenges Relating to Youth Rights

Stephanie Darmanin - Malta - 7/5/2014

If I had to outline the 3 main outcomes of today's roundtable on the current challenges in relation to youth rights, they would be:

1 the definition of a common understanding of youth rights on global level;
2 the fact that there is no guarantee of access to youth rights;
3 the lack of recognition of and respect to youth rights. 

The priority at this stage is to harmonise the concept of youth rights through a structured dialogue with youths making youths the actual policymakers for rights which affect them directly. It has been stressed by the government reps that youths should be central but we all know that a small percentage ie a negligible amount of MPs are actually youths, irrespective of the age bracket in one s country for someone to qualify as youth, not all countries have a functioning national youth council, and youths are not always or rarely present in the decision-making and the legislation process.

Youth rights must be universal and youths should have access to and offered quality youth services in safe environment which are affordable and free of discrimination.

During such  roundtables one would expect hot debates on contoversial practices and laws in various countries however it is high time that all governments recognise and respect the existence of youth rights and ratify the regional and the universal declarations and/or conventions on youth rights.

During WCY2014, I would like to push forward the concept of youth rights as a stand alone goal in the post-2015 agenda. I am highly confident that putting youths on the forefront will pave the way to a brighter future.

The Colombo Declaration on Youth

Petra Stipanic - Slovenia - 6/7/2014

I can't believe it but is happening. The world conference on youth is finally happening and WAGGGS delegates gathered in Colombo, Sri Lanka for 4 days to be active contributors on the joint Declaration from Governments and youth on »Mainstreaming Youth in the post 2015 Development Agenda« - Colombo Declaration on Youth. You can see under this link the first draft paper with inputs from different governments, youth, civil society and stakeholders. Between 6th and 10th May, around 1500 young people from all over the world will be giving inputs and express their ideals on number of different topic:

- Achieving good governance & accountability
- Inclusion youth participation at all levels
- Youth rights
- Globalization/Inclusive youth-led development
- Ending systematic inequalities
- Gender equality
- Empowering marginalised youth including most at risk young people
- Realizing access to quality education
- Full employment & entrepreneurship
- Poverty eradication & food security
- Promoting healthy lives & access to health
- Environmental protection, emergency preparedness & youth centered
- Realizing peace, reconciliation & ending violence
- Ensuring inclusive recreation, sport & cultures

Each of us will not be only a delegate/participant, but we also took other roles for example as facilitators of round tables, reporters of discussions, experts, panellist speakers, main faces of WCY 2014 and so on. For our respective roles we received pre-training before the official start of the WCY so we could be familiar with different challenges and tasks we will face in the upcoming days. From out of 12 committed young women from WAGGGS, 4 will be facilitators including myself. Our role might not be so active as in other occasions where we represent WAGGGS as we will not be label to advocate for our key messages, we will have to stay neutral to be able to facilitate youth discussions. We will play an important link between the interests of the world youth and politicians, stakeholders and decision makers at this conference. We are on the front as we have to challenge different perceptions and at the same time try to put in one place views of youth from very different countries and cultures. We have to listen to them and transmit their recommendations and observation to government representatives at this conference.

From all this inputs we have to get agreed conclusions at the end of the conference and have the first meaningful policy paper on youth as guidance for setting the stage for our future endeavours on post 2015 development agenda and what is going to happen before that. If we get these agreed conclusions on a paper that focuses on youth we can hold our governments accountable for what they signed and we can take these points to the UN where will it be a useful tool to feed into post 2015 development agenda debates and actions. After a day filled with information and preparations of WCY the Sri Lankans treated us with a spectacular cultural evening with a lot of great performances. They really know how to make a show.

How do we get true gender mainstreaming in the post-2015 agenda?

Pippa Gardner - UK - 5/5/2014

When I was reading through the issue briefs for the various themes and cross cutting issues that we will be discussing at the World Conference on Youth 2014 this week, I was struck by the dramatic variation in how the authors had tried to mainstream gender considerations.

For example the brief on "realising peace, reconciliation and ending violence" did this extremely well by dedicating an entire section to specific impacts on youth and women and ensuring there were specific items to resolve these impacts in the recommendations. Turn to "youth and waste management" and you will find no mention of how this issue may differ based on gender identity for the entire piece (perhaps the research hasn't been done?) or, perhaps what I personally feel is more concerning, have a look at "full employment and entrepreneurship" and the phrase 'young women and men' has been used in the place of 'youth' throughout.

Whilst this latter approach does succeed in ensuring 'youth' is not read as exclusively male, it does nothing to recognise that the issue is experienced in a different way dependant on gender identity. UN Women have touched on employment issues in their brief for the "gender equality" strand and have the following to say:

"Women suffer discrimination in accessing labor markets; they are over represented in vulnerable employment; and are paid lower wages than men for work of equal value."

So in this respect there has been research and consultation done to find the gendered aspects of employment issues and so this needs to be thought about in discussions this week. I believe the structure of the conference will help to facilitate this - the participants from the gender equality sessions in the morning will disperse to be part of seven different thematic areas in the afternoons. This, I hope, will mean the gender perspective is brought up in each of these themes to truly mainstream gender in the conference outcome documents and participants mindset.

My challenge now is to see if gender equality can be thought about in the other six cross cutting issue sessions each morning too!